30 May 2015

Paris 'love locks' on lockdown

4:58 pm on 30 May 2015

The authorities in Paris say they'll no longer tolerate the practice of attaching padlocks as a symbol of love to the city's bridges.

What started as a bit of romantic fun has turned into a scourge and an eyesore.

'Love locks' on the Pont des Arts.

'Love locks' on the Pont des Arts. Photo: RNZ / Natasha Frost

The Pont des Arts, the elegant pedestrian bridge next to the Louvre, is now covered in a thick crust of love padlocks, getting on for millions, say the authorities, and weighing nearly 50 tonnes.

But part of the bridge collapsed under the weight last year.

Couples from around the world attach a lock to the metal grille that forms the bridge's balustrade and then throw the key into the Seine.

It's a practice that has since taken off in cities around the world but, having started the trend, Paris is now taking the lead in stopping it.

City officials say all locks will all be removed from Monday as they pose a safety risk.

The Pont de l'Archeveche, near the Notre Dame cathedral, will also have locks removed from its side.

no caption

Photo: RNZ / Natasha Frost

Metal grilles on the side of the Pont des Arts, which dates to 1804, will be replaced by paintings over the summer, before transparent panels are put in place later this year.

"We want Paris to remain the capital of love and romance," said Bruno Julliard, Paris' deputy mayor, adding that there would be new initiatives encouraging people to express their love in other ways.

A campaign by the city last year to get people to take selfies instead of attaching locks was not successful.

On Friday, a statement by the city council said the tradition "has led to two big problems: significant damage to our heritage, and a risk to visitors' security".

Venice has also struggled to deter tourists from attaching locks to the Rialto bridge, and in New York, amateur locksmiths launched a campaign to remove locks from the Brooklyn Bridge.