The Passerelle des Arts - overwhelmed with love
The structure of the Passerelle des Arts is submerged under a thick shimmering coat made up of thousands of padlocks attached to the bridge’s grates. The sheer weight of these locks is overburdening the railings. Are these increasing pledges of eternal love going to cause problems?
The “love locks” are padlocks that couples affix to bridges and public fixtures in a declaration of their love. In Paris, the Passerelle des Arts is a hot spot for lovebirds. However, the vast number of padlocks is causing damage to the grates.
Since the early 2000s this ritual has quickly spread to cities all around the world, including London, New York, Seoul and Paris. The “love lock” tradition began in Pécs (Hungary) and is generally agreed to have started in the 19th century. At that time, soldiers stationed in the city used to leave behind the padlocks with which they had secured their barrack room wardrobes.
"J'ai envie de toi..." à Paris! par mairiedeparis
In Paris, this ritual began in 2008 on the Pont des Arts and has extended to the Pont de l’Archevêché (near Notre Dame) and the Passerelle Simone de Beauvoir. The padlocks often bear names and engravings or are snapped onto a large metal heart. Lovers then usually throw the keys into the Seine. This romantic gesture also takes place at the Ponte Vecchio in Florence and the Ponte l’Accademia in Venice, as well as many other romantic locations in cities throughout the world.
Padlocks weighing down the bridges
It is wonderful to see such a vast amount of devoted couples; however the ritual is posing several problems due to the weight of the thousands of small steel padlocks. Certain sections of the railings are becoming weakened under the weight and sections of the grates require regular replacement. Frequent inspections are carried out in search of segments of bent grating that must be removed and replaced. Two railings were replaced in July and one in August. Is the Passerelle des Arts to become a victim of the lovebirds who wish to solemnise their enduring love?
©Jean-Baptiste Gurliat/Mairie de Paris
Examples of “love lock” cities
Some cities forbid this ritual and can impose fines, whereas others prefer to install fixtures specifically for padlocks, such as metal trees and other dedicated structures.
In Moscow, metal trees have been installed next to Luzhkov Bridge. The branches are designed to be fastened with love locks. Newlyweds come to place a lock on the tree to seal their love.
In Italy, a lamp post on the Ponte Milvio in Rome collapsed under the weight of all the padlocks. The fastening of locks has since been banned and is punishable by a fine. In Florence, all of the padlocks were removed from the Ponte Vecchio in order to prevent damage to the historic monument.
Liverpool (Great Britain) promotes this romantic tradition by encouraging lovers to attach love locks to Albert Dock. A mounted sign proclaims: “This is a special place for lovers! Interlock your padlocks on the railings and throw away the key into the Mersey”.
Hamburg is not yet overburdened; however the street maintenance services are already removing padlocks.
Paris claims the title of the capital of love and has hitherto shown a certain tolerance regarding padlocks. The City Hall keeps on top of the situation by ensuring the replacement of damaged railings. Nevertheless, if the tradition continues to grow in popularity and causes too much damage to the city’s monuments, 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.
Opinions from tourists
Hassan and Samira arrived from Morocco yesterday and the Pont des Arts is at the very top of their list of places to visit. For them, the bridge is a “must-see” and they have no intention of surrendering their padlock. However, they have several ideas to address the issue. “Special plastic padlocks that do not weigh anything could be used instead” says Hassan, “in New York, visitors hang USB sticks, that idea may be worth exploring”. As for recycling the fastened padlocks, “what about a museum dedicated to padlocks?” proposes the tourist.
They do not believe the metal tree is a very good idea, as they point out, “the bridge is a strong symbol, it represents a connection and therefore symbolises love”.
Robert and Tiffany are an American couple from Florida, who saw the bridge of love in the final scene from the film “Now You See Me” and vowed to replay the scene they dubbed “so romantic”. On the verge of purchasing a padlock, they changed their minds when they learnt that these locks are a threat to the bridge’s grates, and instead left proclaiming “Save the bridge!”.
A few metres away, a young man has just knelt down and opened a small red box containing a ring. Theo has just asked his girlfriend to marry him. The couple travelled half the globe to see the bridge of love and attach a padlock which, they claim, symbolises their undying love for one another. They state that they were unaware of the threat posed by the padlocks and that they will willingly hang their padlock elsewhere, perhaps on a metal tree.
If you wish to seal your love, another solution is to send an e-love lock to your sweetheart, here