It’s happened to everybody at one point: you have to use a restroom, but you’re in an area for the first time and have no idea where to go.
This struggle has become a little bit easier to handle, thanks to a novel web application that maps out exactly where the nearest public restrooms are and how to get there–fast! The best part: it’s named Wee Wee Free.
Wee Wee Free works like this: when you have to go to the bathroom and need to find a place to make it happen, you visit the website, enable location services, and it automatically detects a local public restroom. If you need directions, simply click “Route” and your path is drawn for you. It’s as easy as that.
This bathroom atlas is the product of Stefan George, a student at Stony Brook University on Long Island. Stefan said he was furious after learning of a child who was fined $50 for public urination. After hours of Googling and Binging around, Stefan found a ton of bathroom locators, but none that really seemed to work just right.
By using the Google Maps API, which is a robust mapping toolkit offered to developers for free, and enlisting Move-Match founder Nadia Stoffel, Wee Wee Free became a reality.
Stefan, why restrooms?
I started the company after viewing a news report about a boy who was fined for public urination, I also happen to have the bladder of a five year old. This of course lead me to the concept of a website that would list public bathrooms. Nature calls unexpectedly and It can be really frustrating when you need to wee-wee but don’t know where to go, our motto is When nature calls, WeeWeeFree answers!
You note in your biography on your website that you enjoy curing bacon and pancetta. What do you like most about curing bacon?
My dream is that one day I will walk into Macy’s and someone will spray me with a sample of bacon cologne. Once you’ve tried home cured bacon you never go back.
Has your love for curing bacon and pancetta contributed in any way to the making of Wee Wee Free?
Everyone knows that start-ups can be stressful and frustrating, what people don’t know is that a common food sourced from swine is the cure. Homemade bacon is both my mentor and my meal.
So, why the name Wee Wee Free? It seems that Wee Wee Full would be more accurate.
Well, I believe Wee-Wee should be free. Buying a coffee just to use a restroom is both expensive and ironic if you think about it.
You say that your toilet map is better than all of the other toilet maps out there. What makes it different?
I think the main difference is accuracy, meaning, we only show you restrooms that are open during your search. Most sites display all the restrooms that they have, even if they are unavailable at the time. Walking to a restroom only to find out it’s closed is both a waste of time and depending on the situation could lead to an unfortunate incident.
What happens if a bathroom is too far away?
By default, we show restrooms that are within a mile of users’ location, I don’t think they want to walk more than a mile just to use restrooms, but the real solution to this problem is to collect as many restrooms in our data set as possible to prevent far away restrooms.
There is a lot of potential to expand here. Where do you see room for growth?
There are still plenty of work to be done here. We focused on restrooms in New York City right now, but we are gradually adding more data in LA, San Francisco, Seattle, and Boston. Hopefully by the end of the year, we could cover most of the touristy spots on East Coast. Our main goal is to build a community like Yelp.com, but for restrooms.
So, make sure to bookmark it for your next trip someplace new: WeeWeeFree.com
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Big Ideas is the Blog of The State University of New York, published by the Office of New Media.