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Public space

One definition of public space or a public place is a place where anyone can come without paying an entrance or other fee.

Typical examples are most roads, including the pavement, and public parks.

Typical differences between e.g. sitting on a public bench and sitting on a seat in a pavement cafe:

  • the first costs nothing
  • there is no time limitation
  • one can consume brought-along food and drinks (for alcoholic beverages the law prohibits this sometimes; this may even be the case if it is allowed in a pavement cafe)
  • a pavement cafe may have a dress code such as a prohibition of being shirtless, while in a public space only general law applies (however, in some cases, e.g. in Monaco, the law prohibits shirtlessness, except at the beach)

The halls and streets (including skyways) in a shopping center may or may not be declared a public place and may or may not be open when the shops are closed. Similarly for halls, railway platforms and waiting rooms of public transport; sometimes a travelling ticket is required.

A public library is also more or less a public place, but some rules may apply which are absent outside.

In general, there is no expectation of privacy in a public space.

Public spaces are attractive for budget tourists and homeless people, especially those that are relatively comfortable, e.g. a shopping center that provides shelter and, in a cold climate, is heated (or cooled in a hot climate). Sometimes the presence of homeless people is not appreciated and measures are taken to make the public space less attractive to them; the comfort of regular users may be affected by these people but also by the measures against them, e.g. no benches, a lower temperature, waiting rooms that are locked in the evening, etc.

See also Free good, Performance, Public property, Scarcity.

A broader meaning of public space or place includes also places where everybody can come if he or she pays, like a cafe, train, movie theater, brothel, etc.

A shop is an example of what is intermediate between the two meanings: everybody can enter and look around without obligation to buy, but activities unrelated to the purpose of the shop are not unlimitedly permitted.

All Wikipedia text is available under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License

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