Paris ‘locks of love’ being removed to save bridge

Angeline Benoit
Bloomberg News

Paris started Monday to remove “locks of love” from the city’s landmark footbridge Pont des Arts, after their estimated 50-ton weight threatened its structure.

Over the years, it has become a tradition of lovers, both French and foreign, to attach metal locks to the bridge to seal their love. The bridge was closed for a few days last year after a 200-kilo grate collapsed, buckling under the weight of the locks. The city has now decided to remove the locks, costing it thousands of euros in man hours.

“Locks are particularly numerous in Paris because many identify it as the city of love,” said a spokesman for the Paris Mayor’s office, who asked not to be named in line with the city’s policy. “The Pont des Arts is a symbol, and people should understand that they have to stop damaging monuments.”

Nine million foreign tourists visited Paris last year, according to data released last month by the city’s tourism office, making it one of the world’s most-visited cities.

The Pont des Arts footbridge that links the Louvre museum to the Saint-Germain-des-Pres neighborhood will be closed for a week. An art installation will replace the locks for several weeks after which glass walls will be erected on the bridge to prevent people from attaching more locks.

Next year, the city will conduct a similar operation on the Archbishop’s bridge, which leads to the island on which the Notre-Dame de Paris Cathedral stands.

Although the origins of the love-lock trend, which started a decade ago, are unclear, it has become something of a global phenomenon. Locks are found on the Brooklyn Bridge in New York, the Great Wall of China, near the Millennium Bridge in London and on Stockholm’s bridges.

At the Pont des Arts, the locks have caused the bridge’s railings to crumble, threatening pedestrians and cruise boats that ply under it on the Seine River.

The city will monitor other sites since removing the locks on bridges costs several hundreds of thousands of euros, the Paris city spokesman said.

Paris will have its work cut out for it as locks are appearing on other sites, including by the statue of Henry IV on Pont Neuf and at a site by the Alma bridge near where Princess Diana died.