Collapse of Parisian footbridge spurs debate about love locks

A couple hang a love padlock on the steel bar of the Pont des Arts. (AFP PHOTO / PATRICK KOVARIK)

A couple hang a love padlock on the steel bar of the Pont des Arts. (AFP PHOTO / PATRICK KOVARIK)


, Last Updated: 10:35 AM ET

An online petition to ban love locks on an iconic Parisian footbridge is gaining momentum after part of the bridge collapsed under the weight of thousands of padlocks Sunday.

Just as critics feared and predicted, a section of metal mesh about 2.4 m long (8 feet) adorned with hundreds of padlocks collapsed inward onto the bridge Sunday, forcing authorities to close off the Pont des Arts for repairs.

The incident helps love lock critics build a strong case against the phenomenon, in which couples inscribe their names, fasten the lock on the railing, and throw the key into the Seine as a gesture of their everlasting love.

While authorities in Paris have been turning a blind eye to the phenomenon for years, the city's newly minted mayor Anne Hidalgo has made the bridge one of her top priorities -- a decision that may be viewed with interest in cities around the world which likewise have their own love lock sites.

In 2012, city officials in Rome put a stop to the practice by dispatching workers armed with bolt-cutters to clear the Ponte Milvio bridge of the emblems of love.

In China, visitors to Mount Huangshan, also described as the most romantic mountain, secure locks to the chain-link fences that run up and down the trails.

In Cologne, Germany, officials have accepted the practice of fixing padlocks on Hohenzollern Bridge as a romantic tradition.

Meanwhile, earlier this year a pair of American expats living in Paris launched an online petition appealing to the city to ban the practice, citing concerns about structural damage to historic bridges and sites spanning the city.

Since the bridge collapse late Sunday afternoon, their petition No Love Locks on has been signed by 600 more supporters for a total of 7,545 signatures from around the world, including Guy Lee from the UK: "Because being in love doesn't give you permission to deface beautiful things." 

Though started by two American Francophiles, the petition also has won the support of locals and Parisians including Sophie Raymond, who signed, "Because I pay already high taxes in Paris and I don't see why tax money should go towards love locks maintenance."

To hear what locals and tourists have to say about the love locks, visit the Facebook page at