At their best, city laws can encourage smart behaviour and enshrine the freedoms that make great places to live. At their worst they can pander, prevaricate and even generate a stifled laugh. Some of these lesser-known examples are benchmarks, while others are lamentable. But all show urban life in its oddity, charm and contradiction. Note to lawmakers: must do better.
Black or white Züri-Sacks (bin bags) are so expensive that people think twice about what they throw out and stringently sort their recycling. Making residents responsible, rather than pandering to them, yields results.
A little-adhered-to Scottish law suggests that residents should allow passers-by to use their loo if needed. We would caveat this with the precaution that not everyone is trustworthy. That said, there is something rather pleasant and public-spirited about it. Now, if you don’t mind, a little privacy please.
Should you choose to feed the birds in Venice’s St Mark’s Square, expect to be hit with a fine of up to €700. The city banned feeding pigeons in the hope of reducing droppings on buildings – an idea that should take flight.
Strictures in these Caribbean islands outlaw drying clothes on racks or lines that hang over a street, not to mention airing your undies over a public-facing wall, fence or window. Keeping buildings and sightlines pristine bodes well for the neighbours.
The Japanese reputation for politeness extends to the road, which means that legislation forbidding drivers from cruising through puddles and splashing pedestrians is mostly redundant. But it’s a good law that encourages courtesy and respect from drivers. Any city would gain from such a measure.
Time spent in lockdown has led to a boom in pet ownership and Milan recently launched a campaign to help residents think carefully about keeping big dogs cooped up in small apartments. The Turinese, however, are tied to an even more demanding law requiring all dog owners to walk their canine companions no fewer than three times a day. Hefty fines await those caught short. This might be well-intentioned and identifies an important issue but is far from best in show when it comes to execution.
There’s been a huge uptick in companies trying to limit plastic in their supply chains and products in recent years. In Mobile, Alabama, confetti can be added to that list too. Here, any non-biodegradable, plastic-based confetti is banned. It’s good news for the planet – and rice suppliers.
Canadian retailers, who would surely accept every method of payment in 2021, are legally at liberty to refuse cash of more than ca$10 (€6) if the transaction includes more than one coin. Isn’t it time to mint a more intuitive monetary policy?
Greece has banned stilettos at sites such as the Odeon and Acropolis, for fear that heels will ruin the marble surfaces. Perhaps this ban could be broadened to other items of touristy couture: Hawaiian shirts, bum bugs and zip-off trousers could all go.
Nordic countries are known for championing equality in many of their laws. Rather than hitting all offending drivers with fines of equal value, speeding tickets in Finland are based on the driver’s salary and daily disposable income. It means that the heft of a fine (and offence) is felt equally by rich and poor.
Would you ever walk over and ask a lovestruck couple to stop their public display of affection? The French did so in 1910 by banning kissing on train platforms. This was supposedly to prevent rail delays, though we suspect a jilted civil servant was involved in its inception. The rule still applies today.
To get cars off the road, Manila restricts every private vehicle to a few days’ use a week by tracking their licence plates. It’s a clever initiative but fails to deal with the real issue: getting more people onto public transit.