Key to solving Paris' love lock problem

The locks at the Pont des Arts bridge in Paris (left) were removed in June after a section of fencing collapsed under their weight.
The locks at the Pont des Arts bridge in Paris (above) were removed in June after a section of fencing collapsed under their weight.PHOTO: NEW YORK TIMES

When an estimated 45 tonnes of eternal love (about 700,000 padlocks) were removed from the Pont des Arts bridge in Paris on June 1, love as people knew it did not end, despite the outpouring of mourning on social media.

Love locks are alive and well in Paris and in many other cities around the world, where tourists are determined to deposit them as a ritual to mark a romantic trip. Whether that is a good thing depends on the city. Officials view them either as a scourge or as an attraction. In Paris, where there may be more locks than ever, it is the former.

"People who haven't been to Paris can't understand how bad it is," said Ms Lisa Anselmo, co-founder of, a grassroots group whose goal is to educate the public about the damage the locks can cause. "When we travel to other cities as tourists, we should think about our impact on the people who live there."

Using a formula based on how many locks the city said it removed from the Pont des Arts, Ms Anselmo estimated that there are now about 1.5 million locks in the city, attached to 11 bridges and several landmarks, including the Eiffel Tower.

The locks became a craze in Rome, Italy, almost a decade ago, inspired by a novel, and Paris became a destination for people in search of a bridge on which to hang their locks more than five years ago.

The removal of locks from the Pont des Arts in June came a year after a section of fencing collapsed under their weight. Citing aesthetic and structural concerns, the city removed the grilles of locks and temporarily replaced them with panels painted by street artists.

Now, Paris is installing permanent anti-reflective glass panels on the bridge and expects to complete it by January, a city official said.

A similar upgrade will take place on another bridge that is filling with locks, the Pont de l'Archeveche near Notre Dame, early next year.

"There are many other ways to say, 'I love you,'" Mr Bruno Julliard, Paris' deputy mayor in charge of culture, said in June.

Paris has yet to enact a citywide ban and, despite the effort to encourage tourists to instead take selfies and post them on social media with the hashtag #LoveWithoutLocks, determined tourists are locking their love anywhere they can find space.

"People hang locks next to signs that say 'Don't Hang Locks,'"

Ms Anselmo said. "There are even locks on garbage cans."

Since the locks started appearing in Paris, they have spread to several other cities throughout the world.

So many have cropped up on the Brooklyn Bridge in New York that the city's transport department began removing them in the summer of 2013, a department official said.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on November 01, 2015, with the headline 'Key to solving Paris' love lock problem'. Print Edition | Subscribe