The dreamy Pont des Arts footbridge in central Paris was so weighed down by the thousands of locks affixed to its grillwork that a section of the fencing collapsed Sunday.
No one was hurt, but it did spur a tweet from Bruno Julliard, the city’s head of cultural affairs, who said it “confirms that our desire to find an alternative to these locks is a real necessity.” He’s not alone in that feeling.
Love locks have created spontaneous “lovescapes” in cities and towns around the world. The idea is that you and your love attach a lock, often with names or initials written on it, onto a bridge. You throw the keys into the river or canal as a sign that your love is eternal, never to be undone.
While couples may find it romantic to snap a selfie with their personal shrine, many cities aren’t feeling the love.
Besides the Pont des Arts, several Paris bridges are getting bombarded with padlocks, often marring classic views of the Seine River or the Île de la Cité, Reuters reports.
Paris officials worry about the unsafe weight and the aesthetics of all those padlocks, but they also know these are places tourists love to go.
Italy has taken harsh measures the past three or four years. Venice used bolt cutters to remove them from the Ponte del Accademia, and Florence stripped 5,000 love locks from its famed Ponte Vecchio with threats of fining offenders, a Guardian story says.
The British newspaper says the craze became popular after a 2006 Italian novel by Federico Moccia included a romantic padlocking scene at Rome’s Milvian Bridge. “After the novel’s success, lampposts on the bridge were strung with so many padlocks they threatened to collapse, prompting Rome’s mayor to order special railings to be erected for the locks,” the story says.
The tradition has jumped the ocean. Large gym-sized locks had been taking over the Brooklyn Bridge, according to the N.Y. Daily News, and the city’s Transportation Department wants it to stop. Last year it removed 5,600 from the bridge, the paper reports.
But there is at least one spot on the globe that welcomes padlocks. The Locks Fountain, or Fuente de los Candados, in Montevideo, Uruguay, is encased by a grill fence studded with love locks.
A plaque in Spanish and English on the fountain says: “The legend of this young fountain tells us that if a lock with the initials of two people in love is placed in it, they will return together to the fountain and their love will be forever locked.”