Monday, March 17, 2014

Why We Need to Unlock Our Love from the Bridges of Paris (Guest post by Lisa Anselmo and Lisa Taylor Huff of No Love Locks™)

Before and after photos of the Pont des Arts. ©No Love Locks

You’re in Paris on the Pont des Arts with your sweetheart. Maybe it’s your anniversary. You hang a lock engraved with your initials on the bridge, and toss the key in the Seine. Then you walk away.

It’s a year later and that lock is corroded by rust, buried under thousands of other locks and covered in graffiti. The piece of the parapet where you hung your lock gives way, over-burdened by the tonnage it was never designed to hold, and lands squarely on a sightseeing boat passing below, full of tourists.

Collapsing parapets. ©No Love Locks

That’s the scenario Paris city officials are dreading. The parapets have been collapsing regularly, so they warn it’s just a matter of time. Six years after the first locks began appearing in Paris, the trend is well out of control, spreading to other historic sites in the city. The Pont des Arts and Pont de l’Archevêché are now inundated and disfigured by well meaning “love locks,” which seem to have invited graffiti and other acts of vandalism as well, further degrading what was once beautiful.

One lock is a poem; thousands, a conundrum. And the growing problem has city officials and locals ringing their hands.

Finding a solution is tricky business. Each lock holds a memory for someone, and on the face of it, it’s a romantic notion. People could argue that a movement against “love locks” is a movement against love itself. Paris officials have been slow to act, afraid of appearing unwelcoming to lovers. But it’s evident to anyone who will look that this once-lovely idea has become a feeding frenzy, a monster meme bringing Paris to her knees. These days it’s less about love and more about obsession. People are even risking their lives to hang these locks, climbing up lampposts and scaling the outer edges of the bridges. L’amour est une vraie folie, as they say. Madness, indeed. Has common sense and decency been flung into the Seine along with those keys? It has catastrophe written all over it.

 Romantic? Love locks and graffiti on the Pont des Arts.  ©No Love Locks

It’s come to a point where the city can no longer do nothing. The current state of the bridges is so dire that Parisians are not at liberty to enjoy their own public spaces anymore, and security issues have reached critical mass. Sadly, it may be that only an outright ban on “love locks” will give Paris officials the leverage they need to get this beast under control, and save people from hurting themselves.

We appreciate that many of you have special memories of hanging your “love lock” on a bridge in Paris. For others, putting a lock on the Pont des Arts may be on your bucket list. But think about how your lock will contribute to the destruction of Paris’s beautiful bridges, and ask yourself if you want to be a party to that. And those keys being tossed into the Seine? We’ve yet to discover the impact they are having on the environment. Parisians are paying for every photo op with the loss of their heritage, and with their taxes, which go toward the costly routine repairs. You must agree that’s unfair. Imagine a cherished site in your town disfigured and covered in graffiti by visitors who presumed to do so in the name of love. How would you feel?

Is this love? Spray-painted love locks on the Pont des Arts. ©No Love Locks

We’re not anti-love or anti-tourist. We, like you, once thought the idea of “love locks” was romantic. Then we watched our beautiful bridges turning into eyesores and falling apart—and we just couldn’t stand by and watch anymore.

Many people feel the same way. Since we started No Love Locks, we’ve received overwhelming support from all over the world. When the reality of “love locks” is made clear, often people have a change of heart and join our cause. In the first six days since the launch of our petition, we garnered more than 1000 signatures toward our goal, as people everywhere are starting to realize this self-indulgent trend du jour is costing us our future.

If you really love Paris, unlock your love and lift the weight of it from the shoulders of Parisians. Join us in helping Paris save her bridges and you’ll have our undying love. We just won’t proclaim it with a lock, if that’s okay with you.

Sign and share our petition today:
English petition / Pétition en français

To learn more visit: nolovelocks.com 

With special thanks to Lisa Anselmo and Lisa Taylor Huff for starting the "No Love Locks" initiative in Paris and for agreeing to write a guest post for "Out and About in Paris". Given the groundswell of support from Parisians and expats, I look forward to the day when the Pont des Arts returns to its pre-love locks former glory. - Mary Kay Bosshart (Out and About in Paris)

Before—©Lisa Taylor Huff

14 comments:

  1. I would suggest that the city of Paris have a competition to design a piece of art that would accept locks being attached - a Tower of Love - with a Pool of Passion part of the art where the keys could be thrown. All the locks on the bridges now could be melted down to make this piece. Then other siding could be put on the bridges that could not have locks attached.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for sharing your very good proposals!

      Delete
    2. Ooo, good one: La Tour d'Amour! If we ever get the opportunity to pitch creative ideas to the city about where the locks could be "diverted", a competition will definitely be top of that list as we were thinking the same thing. And then you could send in your idea! :)

      Delete
  2. Great post. So very informative of the consequences. Hope the message gets out to all these vandals and mindless people. How can a lock be a symbol of love? It's a symbol of imprisonment and oppression. True love doesn't need locks to demonstrate its power or symbolize commitment. I'd bet a lot of the people who put up locks are no longer together anyway. Specially if this is how they feel commitment should be represented. Pamela

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you for posting a comment, Pamela! Part of the problem is that putting a lock on the Pont des Arts is touted by some guidebooks, movies about Paris, tour guides and even hotels, which sell "Weekend Romance" packages that include love locks, as THE most romantic thing to do in Paris. It's going to be hard to change the way that people think. I wish "No Love Locks" lots of perseverance and success.

      Delete
  3. I agree they should be removed. They block the view from children and smaller wheelchair users as well as marring the beauty of the view from a distance. You don't need a trendy love lock to hold on to your memories of Paris.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You make an excellent point about the locks blocking the view of the river for those in wheelchairs and small children. Thanks for leaving a comment, Sandra!

      Delete
    2. They also obstruct the view for people who want to sit on the benches on the bridge. I assume that's what the benches are there for -- so people can sit and enjoy the view. Used to be you could sit there and enjoy a view of the river and the boat traffic passing below. Now, you look at a solid wall of rusting locks. Or ugly, graffitied plywood panels covering up the gaps where the wire grating has given way under the weight of said locks. Absolutely horrible. To me, this is no different than going to Stonehenge and insisting it's your right to carve your initials into the stones (which people used to do). Everyone would be outraged if you did that. Why not here?

      Delete
  4. Your before and after picture has lead some to question. I have shared your article and support your efforts, however the before and after pic is not the same background. Please explain

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. First of all, thank you for sharing the article and for your support! I'll ask Lisa Anselmo and Lisa Taylor Huff of "No Love Locks", the guest authors of this post, to respond to your question. Both the before and after photos are of the Pont des Arts, they're just of different sides of the bridge. Since I moved to Paris in March 2011, I've been dismayed to see how much the Pont des Arts has changed. As mentioned in the article, the love locks have led to other sorts of vandalism as well. Here's more information posted on the official website for the city of Paris: The Passerelle des Arts - overwhelmed with love

      Delete
    2. Our Before and After pictures are both of the Pont des Arts, but looking in the two opposite directions - and of course 7 years apart (2007 and 2014). But they're both legitimate (taken by me) and un-retouched. As the locks completely cover both sides of the bridge, we felt the two images, though not taken on the exact same spot, show how shocking the effects of the locks epidemic have become. We do plan to try and get an "after" that exactly matches the "before" but haven't yet had the opportunity. Thanks so much for your question and your support! - Lisa TH of No Love Locks

      Delete
    3. Welome to the Kudzu of Paris

      Delete
  5. So glad you posted this, Mary Kay. I remember when one could have a picnic there, sit on the ground and look at the Pont Neuf! The structural weight on this bridge (and others) weighs my heart down (and gets me swearing at the Mairie for dithering over it). Good for these clever Lisas and their campaign. I'll go and Like/Follow and sign now.

    ReplyDelete
  6. So you think they will do something now that they had the "incident" the other day of a section falling?

    ReplyDelete