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Paris decides love locks must go for safety's sake

Paris decides enough already with love locks

Paris is ready to break off its affair with love locks.

In a decision unlikely to cause much heartbreak except for romantic tourists, city officials plan to dump the tens of thousands of locks that festoon the Pont des Arts footbridge and other monuments in the French capital beginning Monday.

The love lock tradition, which has gone on for years and exists in capitals worldwide, involves couples declaring their undying love by putting their names or initials on a padlock, attaching it to a monument and throwing the keys away, often into a river. In Paris, that means the Seine.

Paris officials, reluctant to be seen as kill-joys, for some time had turned a blind eye to the increasing number of locks. But then the weight and the danger became too much. Last year, a five-foot section of the historic Pont des Arts parapet collapsed. 

"This phenomenon generates two problems: a lasting degradation of the heritage of Paris and also a risk to the safety of visitors, Parisians and tourists," city hall said in a statement announcing that as of Monday it would begin cutting the locks. 

About a million padlocks, weighing an estimated 45 tons are expected to be removed. The Pont des Arts metal railings are to be covered with padlock-proof glass panels that are easy to clean of graffiti. 

Lisa Anselmo, one of two Americans who have led the campaign against the love locks, said she was thrilled by the decision to remove them.

"I hope this is the beginning of the end for this destructive trend," Anselmo told journalists.

Paris city authorities had tried asking nicely for tourists and others to refrain from attaching locks to bridges and public monuments.

But for visitors, love was deaf as well as blind, and officials have admitted that the campaign to get couples to take selfies and post their "love lock" online had not been successful.

Lovers be warned, therefore, that city workers and their bolt cutters plan to be on the scene after the weekend.

Willsher is a special correspondent.


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