Paris’ Pont des Arts was given a new lease of life last week with the unveiling of new glass panels. The bridge’s original wire mesh panels have fallen victim to the craze for ‘love locks’. The trend to leave inscribed padlocks on the bridge began in Paris in 2008 and has quickly gotten out of control. With an estimated 700,000 new locks added this summer, it is hardly a unique romantic gesture.
The idea is not limited to the Pont des Arts, or even to Paris. Tourists are happily clipping locks on to bridges and landmarks around the world from São Paulo to Rome. But the Pont des Arts, a footbridge which extends from the Left Bank to the Louvre, has proved an all too popular site.
Back in June one of the wire mesh panels collapsed completely under the weight of the locks and recently many of the other encumbered panels have been covered with unsightly wooden boards or cordoned off for security reasons.
Paris’ new mayor Anne Hidalgo has been keen to address this conflict of interests, between protecting the city’s heritage and allowing tourists to perform what many have come to see as a rite of their Paris adventure.
A picture of the new glass panels was published recently on Twitter by deputy mayor, Bruno Julliard, and a third panel was added last week on a trial basis. To date there are no penalties for love-lockers and vendors are still selling padlocks on the bridge.
The Paris authorities have put their finger on one of the things that drives this trend: social networks. As an alternative to ‘love locks’ the city has set up a photo-sharing platform to encourage tourists to take selfies on Paris bridges and share the pictures using the hashtag #nolovelocks.