The Clever Reason Portland's Public Toilets Offer Little Privacy

Courtesy of the Portland Loo
Courtesy of the Portland Loo

What would it take to design a public toilet that doesn't devolve into a den of drugs, graffiti, and a parade of people who relieve themselves on the floor? That was the challenge facing the city of Portland, Oregon back in 2006, when city commissioner Randy Leonard decided to install sidewalk restrooms that would meet the population's need for relief without becoming a blight on the area.

Their solution was the Portland Loo. And more than a decade after the first Loo was installed, it's demonstrably one of the best approaches to providing facilities that remain clean and free from squalor.

Built by Madden Fabrication, the Loo addresses several of the most common issues facing restrooms open to citizens at large. Nothing about the design invites users to linger inside any longer than they need to in order to conduct their business. That's apparent as soon as you walk into the Loo and find a toilet but no sink. The absence of the latter is to prevent people from performing activities like washing clothes or grooming. (There's no mirror, either.) The only way to clean your hands is to use a spigot mounted on the exterior.

A look at the interior of the Portland Loo
Courtesy of the Portland Loo

The Loo also does away with any sense of privacy. Bars on the top and bottom allow passing police to make sure people are adhering to the single-occupancy mandate and not cavorting. The bars also allow sound to carry. If you're inside, you won't really feel removed from the sidewalk or the passing pedestrians, and it's not likely you'll be relaxed enough to do much more than what nature requires.

In order to discourage drug use, the Loo uses a blue light that makes it difficult to locate veins for intravenous injections.

Vandals won't have much to do with the Loo, either. The coated stainless-steel surface resists spray paint and other markings.

The Loo has migrated to other locations around the country, including Cambridge, Massachusetts; Galveston, Texas; and Hoboken, New Jersey. Loos have also made it to Australia. The prefabricated units can run $100,000, with installation and maintenance costs extra. Later this year, Austin, Texas is set to debut two Loos sourced from Portland. The city plans to dub them the Waterloos.

[h/t CityLab]

$1.6 Billion in $50 Bills in Australia Were Printed With a Typo

PAUL CROCK/AFP/Getty Images
PAUL CROCK/AFP/Getty Images

Australia's $50 banknote is filled with details; there are so many of them that it's hard to spot the typo that slipped onto the face of the bill. But if you know where to look, you'll see the spelling error that the treasury failed to catch before printing it on millions of pieces of currency.

According to CNN, the $50 bill, worth about $34.90 in U.S money, debuted in October 2018. It features Edith Cowan, Australia's first female member of parliament, with her inaugural speech to the Western Australian Parliament typed out in microprint above her shoulder. The words are hard to read, but in the zoomed-in image below you can see the word that's supposed to read responsibility in the second line is mistakenly spelled responsibilty. The bill also features innovative security features, such as holographic design elements, but the typo snuck by unnoticed.

The misspelled word was printed on 400 million banknotes, 46 million of which are currently in circulation. Altogether, the misprinted currency in circulation totals A$2.3 billion, or US$1.6 billion.

Australia's treasury plans to keep the bills in circulation and correct the error when the next batch of $50 banknotes is printed sometime in the next few months. Other typos of this scale have resulted in major consequences: In 1962, a missing hyphen in some computer code caused a satellite to explode, costing NASA $80 million.

[h/t CNN]

3D ‘Zebra Crossing’ Crosswalk Is Making Pedestrians in North London Safer

iStock.com/olaser
iStock.com/olaser

Cities around the world are improving upon the classic crosswalk. In Ahmedabad, India and Medford, Massachusetts, drivers are now confronted with 3D crosswalks painted on the asphalt. As Londonist reports, North London—home to perhaps the most iconic zebra crossing of all time—is the latest place to experiment with the new design.

The innovative crosswalks use an optical illusion to make roads safer for pedestrians. Instead of showing conventional flat stripes, the blocks in these crossings are painted with additional, shaded shapes around them, giving them the appearance of 3D objects raised from the ground.

The change is meant to get drivers' attention and encourage them to slow down before they reach the pedestrian crossing. Installing 3D crosswalks is a cheap and simple improvement, and it can potentially save lives.

The new crosswalk outside Barrow Hill Junior School in North London's St. John's Wood neighborhood uses this same trick. It's located around the corner from the place where The Beatles's Abbey Road album cover was shot. That's one crosswalk that likely won't be redesigned anytime soon, but luckily the hordes of tourists taking pictures there makes it easy to spot.

The new crosswalk is the first of its kind in the UK. After a nine- to 12-month trial run, London will consider installing the safety feature throughout the borough of Westminster.

[h/t Londonist]

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