A City Where You Express Love By Using Padlock
The tradition of love locks started not in Paris but in Hungary.
The legend goes that a woman who had lost her lover during World War I started fixing padlocks on bridges where they used to meet. It was her way of expressing that her love was unbreakable.
Soon, the trend caught on and became a tradition not only in Hungary but also in other parts of the world.
Perhaps, since Paris is known to be the City of Love, the tradition became most popular there.
Paris adopted the culture from young Italian couples. The love locks caught people’s fancy instantly and it became a roaring tradition here. Although the ritual started only in the year 2008, the railings of bridges over the Seine are crowded with padlocks.
Lock bridges are now an important part of the scenery on the Seine.
Since late 2008, tourists have taken to attaching padlocks (love locks) with their first names written or engraved on them to the railing or the grate on the side of the bridge, then throwing the key into the Seine river below, as a romantic gesture. This gesture is said to represent a couple’s committed love.
In February 2014, Le Monde estimated that there were over 700,000 locks; with the 2014 summer tourist season, many thousands more have since been added, creating a serious safety concern for city authorities and an aesthetic issue for Parisians.
By 2014, concern was being expressed about the possible damage the weight of the locks was doing to the structure of the bridge.
In May, the newly elected mayor, Anne Hidalgo, announced that she was tasking her First Deputy Mayor, Bruno Julliard, with finding alternatives to love locks in Paris.
In June, part of the parapet on the bridge collapsed under the weight of all of the padlocks that had been attached to it.
In August 2014, the Paris Mayor’s Office began to say publicly that they wanted to encourage tourists to take “selfies” instead of leaving love locks, when they launched the “Love Without Locks” campaign and social media hashtag.
The web site states: “Our bridges can no longer withstand your gestures of love. Set them free by declaring your love with #lovewithoutlocks.”With the high tourist season in full swing, more than 50% of the panels on the Pont des Arts had to be boarded over with plywood because the weight of the locks (estimated by the city to be 700 kg per panel) was creating the risk of more panels collapsing.
On 18 September 2014, the City Hall of Paris replaced three panels of this bridge with a special glass as an experiment as they search for alternative materials for the bridge where locks cannot be attached.
From 1 June 2015, city council workmen from Paris started to cut down all the locks after years of complaints from locals. Health and Safety officials said “the romantic gestures cause long term Heritage degradation and danger to visitors” As of 2015, over a million locks were placed, weighing approximately 45 tons.
Street artists like Jace, El Seed, Brusk or Pantonio have been chosen to paint the new panels that replaces the old railings with locks.