In the midst of the tourist season, which has seen lovers flocking to historic Paris bridges to affix a padlock declaring undying love before throwing the key into the Seine, city authorities have taken a brave decision.
From Monday, they will be posting stickers on all the bridges weighed down by the “love locks” in hopes of encouraging couples to share a romantic “selfie” on social media instead, with the hashtag #lovewithoutlocks.
In June, a five-foot long section of the Pont des Arts weighed down by 500 kilos of love locks collapsed and the metal mesh had to be replaced, prompting the temporary closure of the footbridge located by the Louvre museum. Another stretch of railings on the bridge – where the thousands of padlocks now weigh a total 54 tons – was replaced earlier this month.
Lovebirds have now migrated to other bridges – all of which have listed monument status – and the love locks now adorn the Pont de l'Archevêché at the foot of Notre Dame, the Pont Neuf from where bateaux-mouches set off, and the Alexandre III bridge by the Grand Palais.
Video: In June part of the bridge collapsed because of extra weight
“We didn’t want to get into a repressive situation and penalise tourists, so we’re suggesting a social wall,” a city hall spokesman told Le Parisien newspaper.
Until now, despite an online petition by two Americans calling for the removal of the padlocks and a ban on their future use, tourists have turned a deaf ear to their “No Love Locks” entreaties.
The two campaigners, who reject the use of bolt cutters to remove the padlocks, discussed ways of discouraging the love locks and possible alternatives at the end of June with city officials. The pair are proposing flyers in different languages to inform visitors that the bridges are protected by UNESCO heritage status, and a ban on the sale of padlocks by street sellers.
In pictures: The 'Love Lock' bridge in Paris
In pictures: The 'Love Lock' bridge in Paris
Thousand of padlocks clipped by lovers on the fence of the Pont des Arts over the River Seine
A general view shows the Pont des Arts with its fence covered with thousands of padlocks clipped by lovers over the River Seine
The love padlocks, called cadenas d’amour, multiplied until there were thousands of love tokens on the bridge, each engraved with a message of love
A view shows a street light covered with padlocks clipped by lovers on the Pont des Arts over the River Seine
Tourists make a 'selfie' picture in front of padlocks clipped by lovers on the Pont des Arts over the River Seine in Paris
The sweethearts' names or initials are inscribed on the padlock, and its key is thrown away to symbolise unbreakable love
Since the 2000s, love locks have proliferated at an increasing number of locations worldwide
Colourful, sparkly padlocks clipped by lovers are seen on the fence of the Pont des Arts over the River Seine
Padlocks have all different shapes and sizes, some couples customised them with their own wedding photos
Every year, couples from all over the world flock to the bridge to attach padlocks of all shapes and sizes to its metal railing as a symbol of their love
For couples visiting Paris these locks are symbols of their everlasting love. In other cities the locks have also caught on as an expression of passion — in Seoul, Budapest, Rome and Tokyo
Most of the padlocks are heat shaped or have word 'love' written on them
Names Alexey & Inna are seen on one of the many padlocks on the Pont des Arts over the River Seine
The love padlocks have been a phenomenon in cities as varied as Belgium to Japan
One night about two years ago, someone cut through the wires and removed all the locks but in just a few months, locks of all sizes and colors reappeared, more conspicuous than ever
Some say the only way to break the seal of love brought on by this love lock act is to find the key and unlock the padlock
'There are two bridges in Paris with the locks, you must be very careful which bridge you put your lock on because Pont des Arts is for your committed love, while Pont de l'Archevêché is for your lover'
Pont des Arts is one of the top, most visited touristic attractions in Paris
Padlocks with the Eiffel tower and mock Paris street signs models clipped by lovers are seen on the fence of the Pont des Arts over the River Seine
The love locks began appearing on the Pont des Arts in 2008, after reputedly starting in Pécs, Hungary in the 19th century then spreading around the world more recently. But they are particularly numerous in the city of love.
The problem has now become so serious that city officials regularly check the bridges’ railings for safety, and Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo has asked her deputy, Bruno Julliard, to come up with a plan.
It remains to be seen how successful the initiative will be, although there is one factor that might prove a deterrent this week: rain.