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Can we stop now with the love locks?

It is no longer a mere curiosity.

Love-lock bridges have cropped up in various locations worldwide, and Paris is no exception. On a number of occasions, I have even had the honour of giving direction to the “Pont des Clés”, as one tourist put it. It has been talked about in plenty of columns and blog articles, some of the recent ones include:

Paris Love Locks: A Love that Won’t Die” (Bonjour Paris, 07/2011)
The Padlocks of Paris” (David Lebovitz, 04/2012)
In Paris, Love-Locks Conquer All, Even City Hall” (France24, 08/2012)
An Affront to Love, French-Style” (NYT Sunday Review, 08/2012)
Locked and Loaded: Love Locks Inundate the Bridges of Paris” (Paris Update, 08/2012)

Originating in Italy, this import to Paris has seen bridges such as Pont des Arts and Pont de l’Archevêché become places of touristic interests. More disturbingly though are certain claims that this phenomenon is a French tradition (read: some boat tour company which shall remains unnamed here) – since when? How come I didn’t get that memo? – but I guess in this case, anything goes when it comes to promoting tourism?

I have previously voiced my scepticism over such practice, and I still do. I believe in love that shows commitment and care, not flash and blings and artificial charms. I believe in love that does not need to be spoken out loud but manifests in the little gestures and actions (that don’t include love lock declaration). I believe in love that is strong to endure the thick and thin of everyday life, not showing off to everyone and sundry as if seeking validation to the love that one bears.

Then again, each to his/her own. Why should I be bothered by how others are declaring their loves? Engraved or not, shout out loud or otherwise, everyone loves differently. No two relationships are exactly the same and in the grand scheme of life, this seems all rather trivial, no?

What got me rather annoyed though, is the fact that some couples, unsatisfied just clicking-in locks on grilled/grated bridges, have look to defacing sculptures in their quest to superficially show their love to the world. I get it, Paris is romantic, you can’t help yourself, it’s a spontaneous thing, there are some guys nearby selling locks etc etc. But putting locks through public monuments such as sculptures on Pont Alexandre III!!!? I had a shock the first time I came across them that my reaction was pretty much this -> gobsmacked.

I’m beginning to suspect not only love have made those couples blind (so much so they can’t see how ugly the locks they put have made the sculptures), it has also rendered them incapable of any ounce of common sense! (Oh wait, that has also been diagnosed before as a symptom of love…) Stop making this formerly happy génie look sad and tired. Stop making ME sad.

For the love of God/art/whatever, put an end to this form of public property defilement. This is in no way romantic and instead, it is incredibly socially irresponsible! There are 37 bridges running across Seine in Paris, a number of them could conceivably be set aside for loved-up folks to create a love-related curiosity that attracts attentions and clicks of camera. Pont des Arts, Pont de l’Archevêché, Passerelle Léopold-Sédar-Senghor. Stay within those (unspoken) boundaries.

Update Nov 2013: I went by the above-mentioned bridges recently and could now not even defend any romantic gesture in putting on the love-locks. Not anymore. It has gone completely out of control. The Pont de l’Archevêché is showing signs of cracks on the barrier, there are dislodged railings on Pont des Arts and had to be boarded up in wood until further repairs, and new bridges are being taken over for more locks (e.g. Pont Neuf). Enough already. Seriously.

Category: Paris, People

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24 scribbles & notes

  1. Ann Mah says:

    Amen, sister! I’m afraid of being called a curmudgeon, but now I can admit: the love locks drive me crazy — especially since they were imported from Rome (and INVENTED in an Italian novel FIVE YEARS ago)! This is not an age-old tradition — this is a device to sell crap to tourists!

    This article says it all: http://www.nytimes.com/2007/08/06/world/europe/06rome.html?_r=0

    If I could wallpaper the Pont des Arts with it, I would ;)

    • Lil says:

      It does amuse me when guides etc claimed this to be old-aged tradition. It makes me want to chime in and say, “show me the proof of the timeline for this tradition”!

  2. Céline says:

    I totally agree with you. It is not a age-old tradition. To say the truth, when I was a teenager, nobody would have think if that ! It only arrived a few years ago, maybe 5 or 6, I don’t remember.
    A few love-lock may be cute. A bridge full of them, such as the Passerelle des Arts, is ugly. I can’t wait for this trend to stop and to find back my old Passerelle des Arts…

    • Lil says:

      Last year when I went by there were relatively few of them but this year they are getting more and more. Just waiting for the midnight ninja to remove some of them away I guess… I have a feeling it won’t stop anytime soon though.

  3. Katia says:

    I second what Ann said! I find them to be an incredible eyesore.

  4. Melanie says:

    What a terribly pedestrian view of it all. It is somewhat ridiculous to equate love locks with an act of vandalism. May I remind you that vandalism is an deliberate act performed with the intention of destroying or damaging property. You can hardly call putting padlocks on a bridge or a monument an intentional act designed to destroy public property.

    What it is, of course, is an eyesore, and to a lesser extent, an inconvenience. But then again, if you weren’t complaining about the love locks, you would, no doubt, find something else to complain about in your attempt to create your perfect vision of a utopian Paris.

    Public expressions has been around for thousand of centuries. The inscriptions found on the walls of ancient sepulchers and ruins of Ancient Rome were also once regarded as forms of vandalism, yet now give anthropologists, historians and the like a value insight into previous cultures and hold much historical significance.

    I would rather public expressions of love, than hate. In fact, were these expressions on the contrary, I would still defend the people’s right to express themselves, however, I would be more empathetic to your complaints.

    Relax. Learn to live a little, and find something more significant to complain about.

    • Lil says:

      I don’t think I was complaining much nor was I attempting to create a vision of Utopian Paris. And I certainly have no problem with the love-locks in general. I invite you to re-read the article above. I was more of the attitude, each to his/her own in the manner they want to express love.

      What I do not agree on is the love-locks on sculptures. They are not mere eyesores. They have damaging effects (and this holds even for bridges with grill/grate). The locks can get rusty over time, and they will affect the integrity of the sculptures/structures. It may not seem much now, but little by little, the effect accummulates. Not to mention, throwing keys into the river is a form of pollution. Rusting keys in riverbed is hardly going to ensure the health of the water which the government has been working at cleaning in the recent years.

      Vandalism is also defined as “willful or ignorant destruction of artistic or literary treasures.” And frankly, putting love-locks on sculptures that are over a century old is an intentional act, since one cannot accidentally put the locks on. It requires effort to reach the spots where one can put locks on on the sculptures and I don’t even want to think if the person have been using part of the sculptures to hoist themselves up high and risk damaging the sculptures further!), and whether the intention is to damage the property or not, it is a willful act, an ignorant one at that too. So I believe calling it vandalism, in this instance, is appropriate.

    • Céline says:

      Being born in Paris some 30 years ago (and living in since), I have observed that to “find something else to complain” about everything is part of being a parisian, isn’t it ? ;)

      The problem with the lovelocks is the amount of them. At the beginning, when they was only a few of them, it was cute. Just as the “A <3 B" engraved on the tree trunk. But now, you can't even see the bridge under the lovelocks ! And is it really "freedom of speech" to be able to put a lock on a bridge ?

      Moreover, I don't think they are "expression of love", instead of "expression of hate". What they really are is "Hey ! Look at me ! Here I am !", just expression of egotistic people that want to be looked at.
      And, even if they were expression of love, don't they contribute to the vision of romantic Paris ? The making of a fake "Paris, city of love", as in the Midnight in Paris movie ?

  5. medca says:

    hmmm….good thing this has not caught on back here…for now

    • Lil says:

      but KL doesn’t have many (or any) bridges where pedestrian walks on in centrally located and touristy area, are there?

  6. Selena says:

    don’t padlock a bridge. Stay at home and have sex instead :-D

  7. Selena says:

    eh. some of us old crocks are not athletic enough anymore to climb statues LOL

  8. I’m a wedding planner here in Paris, and I can’t tell you how many clients I’ve guided towards the Love Lock Bridge as part of their photo session or post-wedding stroll. I always thought the notion was really sweet and romantic, and had never seen the locks on the statues before. I hadn’t realized that it had gotten so out of hand, AND that the keys were damaging the Seine. Thats really too bad! at Juliet’s Balcony they’ve put a tall chain-link wall up, where people can put their locks. I assume that people just take the key home with them. The gift shop also sells locks with the verona logo on them (naturally). Maybe they could put something like that up here- away from the Seine, in a park or a square. I feel so bad now- the sentiment was so sweet…

    • Lil says:

      It started out sweet, but because this is Paris, things do get stepped up a big notch! Perhaps a baby step for those who still wants to put on a love lock is to do it only on specific grill bridges (and not on statues) and to use numerical lock rather than those with keys?

  9. Skorsky says:

    And why does anyone think that following a fashion in a sheep-like way is romantic, anyway?
    It’s like a single red rose on Valentine’s Day….boring, predictable, impersonal, meaningless.
    Once everyone’s doing it, it becomes pointless.

    • Lil says:

      Indeed – I’m all for personalised romantic gestures. It shows what the couple knows and understand the desires of one another.

  10. dan says:

    A single red rose is neither boring or meaningless if you love the person it came from. I say put a lock on a bridge if you want express your love the way you want….and you express your love the way you want. A single red rose given to a woman on valentines day might be the most precious thing ever when given with love….boring?

    • Lil says:

      A single red rose, from my personal point of view, is a little, errm, lazy? Give me a single stalk of one of my favourite flowers, it says love with a touch of “I care and I know what you really like”.

      I used to think it’s alright to put a lock on a bridge, but now that I am more aware of the consequences that come from such an action, I could no longer agree with the sentiment. I am glad that the city administrator is finally going to do something about removing them.

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