You have probably heard about the “love lock” craze sweeping across Europe, driving thousands of tourists to memorialize their affection for each other by attaching a personalized metal padlock to bridges and tossing the key into the water. Paris seems to be particularly vulnerable to this frenzy, being the “City of Love” and also home to so many bridges. Sadly, the locks have spread like kudzu since they first appeared in 2008, becoming both an eyesore and a destructive hazard to the old metal bridges crossing the Seine.
The Pont des Arts is decorated with lovely iron work and hails from the 1800’s. The locks on this bridge are said to weigh in at a staggering 45 tons. It is not surprising that the bridge is stressed by the added weight, and has become in danger of dropping pieces of iron panels into the river. The locks are also an eyesore, completely blocking the view through the grills.
Sadly, the lock scourge is not limited to one bridge. The locks are appearing on every bridge that can accommodate a padlock, and also on metal structures throughout the city.
Although the City of Paris has been expressing concern about the locks for five years, it wasn’t until this week that any formal plan of removal was activated. On Monday workers began removing the panels from the Pont des Arts and replacing them with temporary panels painted by street artists. Later, custom-made plexiglass will be installed over the historic grill work. A second bridge is also slated to be “unlocked” and protected from future abuse.
This photo shows the lock-covered panels leading to the Pont des Arts. This is what the bridge panels looked like before they were removed and replaced with the temporary pink and white panels seen in the background.
Although the plexiglass solution will address the damage to the bridges, I fear that it will not do much to improve the aesthetics of the old structures. The panels are said to be washable, but how regularly do you think they will be washed? This replaced panel attached to the Pont Neuf is likely a sign of what we can expect the bridges to look like after the locks are removed.
Aren’t people wonderful?
I will do a follow-up post showing you the Pont des Arts after its make-over. And all you lovers out there, consider lip-locks rather than love locks. Your favorite cities will thank you.