June 9 (Bloomberg) -- Le Pont des Arts, the landmark Paris footbridge that links the Louvre museum to the Saint Germain neighborhood, is buckling under the weight of “love locks.”
The Paris mayor’s office closed the bridge last night to replace a grate after thousands of locks weighed down its structure. Its railings are crumbling, threatening pedestrians on the bridge and cruise boats that ply under it on the Seine River. The bridge was reopened today after it was checked for safety, with two fire-department boats standing by to avert any potential incident.
Although the origins of the trend are unclear, it has become a tradition for lovers to attach a lock to the railing on the sides of bridges in Paris to seal their love. Each lock weighs about 54 to 90 grams. The mayor of Paris’s 6th arrondissement, where the bridge is located, says the locks on the Pont des Arts weigh as much 10 tons, or 22,000 pounds. The grate that collapsed yesterday weighed about 200 kilos and the bridge has about 50 of them.
“The issue raised by the locks is both one of aesthetics and security,” Bruno Julliard, the Paris mayor’s culture adviser, told Agence France-Presse last month as he unveiled a plan to find “artistic alternatives” to the spread of love locks.
There are several thousand locks just on the 155-meter long Pont des Arts. Their numbers are growing and the Paris mayor’s office is struggling to stop people from adding more, including on the Eiffel Tower.
“One can really wonder about the long-term capacity of this bridge to bear such weight,” Jean-Pierre Lecocq, the 6th arrondissement’s mayor who is opposed to the locks, said on his website today.
Tourists and Parisians alike have taken to locking their love to other structures as well, from the sides of the Canal Saint Martin bridges to the grates protecting the top floor of the Eiffel Tower, 1,000 feet above Paris. Some have even been seen near the cemeteries of Pere Lachaise and in the Montmartre area -- home to the Basilica of the Sacre Coeur.
Paris is not alone in this growing trend. Locks are found now on the Brooklyn Bridge in New York, on the Great Wall of China, near the Millennium Bridge in London and on Stockholm’s bridges.
The first locks appeared in Paris around 2006, spreading from the Pont des Arts to the smaller Pont de l’Archeveche that links the left bank to the Ile de la Cite and the Notre Dame de Paris cathedral.
The collapse of a grate on the Pont des Arts yesterday sparked a flurry of messages on Twitter, some calling it a “visual cancer.”
An online petition on the www.nolovelocks.com website has gathered 7,465 signatures since January 2014.
“Our mission is to seek measures to fight against this plague by working in partnership with the City of Paris,” the group said on its website. Nolovelocks was founded by two American women living in Paris.
Still, the Pont des Arts was crowded as ever today and lock-sellers were doing brisk business. The practice has turned into a headache for the city of Paris. Taking them away would be seen as an offense to eternal love. Keeping them is a security threat.
Monica Tasic, an Australian from Sydney traveling through Europe for five months, said they shouldn’t stop the locks from being put on the bridge.
“I think it’s romantic,” Tasic said. “In Italy, at Juliet’s Balcony they have a shop selling locks and they need one here.”
To contact the editors responsible for this story: Alan Crawford at email@example.com Vidya Root, James Hertling