This week (June 1-8), Paris’ Pont des Arts bridge is shut down to remove the roughly 700,000 love locks that have appeared on the bridge since 2010 (they first appeared in Paris in 2008 but were removed by a student in 2010). This has been a sore spot for locals who see the damage being done to the city’s historic bridges. The Pont des Arts bridge is Paris’ first metal bridge (1801).
I can’t say that I’m not surprised. When we visited, parts of the bridge were struggling under the 45 tonnes of weight added systematically by tourists… this is four times the allowed weight of the bridge. In 2014, part of the bridge collapsed under the weight of the locks. It’s really only a matter of time before significant damage is done.
The practice is thought to have started in Most Ljubavi (Serbia) during World War 1; when a Serbian couple fell in love… but broke off their engagement when the man fell in love with an Italian woman while serving in Italy. As the story goes, local women decided to prevent this from happening by asking beaus to commit to their relationship by adding a lock to the local Bridge of Love.
History aside, the practice of adding locks to bridges has only gathered steam in the last decade. We saw our first love locks while in Dublin in 2013 and have since noticed locks on just about every bridge we’ve crossed.
The idea is that couples attach a lock to the bridge and then throw the key into the Seine or another river as a symbol of everlasting love. The locks have created unplanned “lovescapes” on bridges and in cities and towns around the world.
Those on the Pont des Arts represent more than just romantic love. Some commemorated special life moments, like an anniversary, a birthday or graduation. Others were placed in memory of a lost love one… the saddest that we saw was for the death of three children.
Honestly, Paris needs to find an alternative solution to this problem because the practice won’t stop. It’ll simply move to other bridges or structures. The best example that I’ve seen of how a city handles love locks comes from Moscow and the city’s lock trees.