The city of Paris started removing padlocks from the Pont des Arts on Monday, effectively ending the tourist tradition of attaching “love locks” to the bridge.
For years, visitors have been attaching locks with sentimental messages to the bridge in symbolic acts of affection. Some further seal the deal by throwing keys into the Seine River below.
A 2006 Italian young adult novel-turned-film is thought to have created the practice, which started in Rome and spread. It came to in Paris around 2008 and starting posing problems in 2012, said Lisa Anselmo, co-founder of advocacy group No Love Locks.
It was considered charming at first, but the thrill wore off as sections of fencing on the Pont des Arts crumbled under the locks’ weight. The bridge carries more than 700,000 locks with an estimated combined weight roughly the same as 20 elephants.
The phenomenon spread to other bridges, creating two major concerns for the city: “degradation of property heritage and a risk to the safety of visitors, Parisians and tourists,” the Paris City Council said on its website.
Graffiti, pickpockets and vendors selling cheap padlocks also became a problem, prompting many locals to avoid the once-picturesque promenade built in the 1800s under Napoleon.
“Paris had to do something to save their heritage sites. The entire UNESCO World Heritage district is endangered by love locks,” Anselmo said in an email.
No Love Locks has been urging the city to ban the practice outright. It also called out brands on social media for featuring the barnacled bridge in ads.
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