Mon dieu! 'Love locks' on Paris bridges stir controversy

Claudine Zap
Claudine Zap
Compass

Ah, l'amour. For romantics in Paris, nothing says love like a padlock attached to a bridge. For some couples, "love locks" are a must.

Visitors attach a lock inscribed with the couple's initials and throw the key into the Seine. As the idea has caught on, more and more locks have showed up on bridges. Romantic gesture? Or public nuisance?

Lisa Anselmo and Lisa Taylor Huff, two Americans who live in the City of Light, felt the locks had become an unromantic eyesore and started a "No Love Locks" campaign to ban them. Their Change.org petition has already received more than 2,500 signatures.

"These bridges were beautiful, tranquil places, and now they are disfigured and falling apart," Anselmo told Yahoo. "Parts of the Pont des Arts routinely collapse now from the weight of the locks."

When the part-time Paris resident noticed how widespread the locks had become on Paris bridges, she wrote a post on her blog in January asking tourists to "unlock your love."

The post, read thousands of times, was reblogged by Taylor Huff, a dual French and American citizen. The two decided to team up. "A few days later, No Love Locks was born," Anselmo recalled.

The petition, posted on Change.org in February, reads, in part: "These locks create a threat to the cultural heritage of the city of Paris, and the time has come to regulate them," adding that the overabundance of the symbols of eternal love has "exploded into a destructive force so out of control that current methods of repeated repairs cannot keep pace."

The locks are now found on "almost all of the bridges across the Seine, as well as many of the smaller footbridges that span the canals in the 10th arrondissement," reported the Guardian newspaper, adding, "On the most popular bridges the guard rails now consist of a solid wall of metal."

Estimates suggest that there are about 700,000 locks attached to multiple bridges over the Seine, with many of them on the Pont des Arts, considered a "lovers' bridge." They do seem to be a hit with tourists.

One TripAdvisor reviewer called the trend "very fun, romantic and memorable" and added: "We bought a cute lock from a street vendor, wrote our names on it and tried to find a spot on the lovers bridge. Several bridges have locks so ask which bridge is THE one. After you lock it you are supposed to kiss and throw the key in the river."

Another praised it as "overwhelming and a stunning place."

A third wrote, "I'm sure the value of the tourist draw this has far outpaces the cost of cutting these locks down if it becomes a problem."

Locals may fail to feel the love for the padlocks. In 2010, officials appeared to agree that the tradition of attaching locks to bridges in Paris had gotten out of hand.

"They raise problems for the preservation of our architectural heritage," said an announcement from Paris City Hall. Shortly after that, the locks on Pont des Arts disappeared, according to the Independent in London.

But bureaucrats may be no match for true love. Those intent on making the pilgrimage turned to another bridge, the Pont de l'Archevêché. Photos show the guardrail hidden under the glint of thousands of locks along the walkway.

The website of the city of Paris asks lovebirds to show some love to the old bridges: "The ritual is posing several problems due to the weight of the thousands of small steel padlocks."

The site adds that if the tradition doesn't stop, "Solutions will be considered in a bid to address the problem without breaking the hearts of those who have sealed their undying love for each other to the Parisian bridges."

Love does always seem to find a way.

Follow Claudine Zap on Twitter: @zapkidd

In the video below: On Valentine's Day, couples attach locks to Paris's bridges.