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Why Love Locks Are Not So Cute

Paris is a city of lovers, where couples walk hand-in-hand along the Seine and share croissants in a park with a view of the Eiffel Tower. The capital city of romance has long invited lovers to visit and celebrate their bond by strolling, picnicking, and canoodling; but there’s one expression of love Paris will not stand for anymore—love locks.

In recent years, a trend has emerged among couples—particularly those on vacation—to write their names and maybe a message of devotion onto a padlock. After securing the lock to a bridge, couples throw the key into the water, and walk away with the hopes of revisiting the lock many years later. However, this symbol of eternal love is anything but. Within a matter of weeks, the love locks will be cut and thrown away by the city. Why? They are considered a form of vandalism and a serious threat to the safety of public structures.

(Photo: Harald Kanins via flickr/CC Attribution)

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A typical padlock weighs about two ounces, which doesn’t seem like much until you multiply that weight by the hundreds and sometimes thousands of love locks that tourists attach to popular landmarks. The pedestrian Pont des Arts in Paris has suffered the most under the weight of the love locks, with a reported 700,000 locks that collectively weigh over 93 metric tons. After a metal grill collapsed under the weight of the locks in 2014, Paris officials set out to remove the love locks entirely. But like weeds, the locks soon returned and multiplied. To discourage tourists from leaving locks, the city tried everything from putting up signs encouraging people to commemorate their love with a selfie to installing ugly wooden boards to prevent people from attaching more locks. Finally, the perfect solution was found when city officials installed glass panels along the bridge to keep the bridge lock-free without compromising the beauty of the Pont des Arts.

The Pont des Arts was saved, but there are still many landmarks around Paris and the rest of the world that are burdened by love locks—and it’s not just the weight that can cause issues. According to No Love Locks, an organization founded by two American expats to raise awareness about the harmful trend, padlocks rust more quickly than metal used to build outdoor structures, and that rust then spreads and weakens the bridge. Removing the locks and replacing the parts that have been damaged by the weight and rust costs taxpayers money. There’s also the environmental damage of the thousands of keys polluting city rivers. The love-lock craze has also created an industry fueled by illegal lock peddlers around famous landmarks and the online companies that are promoting the trend by manufacturing personally engraved locks.

(Photo: Thinkstock/iStock)

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While locking your love with your partner is romantic and instagram-worthy, it’s really very impractical. Most likely, your symbol of love is fated to be covered up by another layer of love locks, and eventually removed. They’re bad for the environment, bad for the city, and not really the best way to immortalize your love.

However, there are plenty of other ways you can romantically commemorate your travels. You can choose a spot that you vow to return to with your partner each time you visit the city, or take a photograph of the special moment. Heck, get a tattoo if you’re looking for permanence. And if you’re still enamored with the idea of love locks, head to a city with a designated public space for displaying the locks, like these metal trees in Moscow or this installation in Toronto.

While the tourists that leave love locks have good intentions, love locks are a nuisance to locals and can cause serious damage to beloved city structures. So before you throw away that key, do some research on the city’s love lock policy. Instead of losing your lock to the landfill, look for somewhere your symbol of love is welcomed.

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Jamie Ditaranto is a writer, photographer, and lover of metaphors as long as they’re not hurting the environment. Follow her on Twitter @jamieditaranto.

(Photo: Kehn via flickr/CC Attribution)

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