Arrivals & Departures Locking in your love can have its downsides

Those 'love lock' padlocks are now coming off many bridges around the world, writes Stephen Scourfield

A padlock is fixed to a bridge and the key thrown into the river below, as a symbol of a couple’s unbreakable love.

But there are quite a lot of combination locks, too. Some are hedging their bets.

This is a pedestrian bridge over the Salzach River in Salzburg, Austria, with thousands of padlocks glinting in the summer sun. Many are engraved with names and hearts, bought from local shops.

It’s not legal to attach love locks to this bridge, but it’s tolerated.

And they have turned it into a glinting spectacle. A giant communal artwork; and a tribute to love.

But, of course, love locks are controversial.

They started appearing on bridges in Europe in the early 2000s and many authorities treat them as vandalism. There are penalties for those caught fixing them.

In 2015, officials in Paris decided they should be removed from the Pont des Arts over the River Seine when the 700,000 padlocks weighing 45 tonnes were blamed for the collapse of part of the bridge’s parapet.

It led to the No Love Locks campaign run through nolovelocks.com. Launched by friends Lisa Anselmo and Lisa Taylor Huff, both living in Paris.

Lisa Taylor Huff died in 2015, but wrote about “the vandalism caused by too many locks and disrespectful tourists”.

Love locks are systematically removed all over Europe, from the Ponte Vecchio in Florence, Italy, to many bridges in Venice, including the Rialto Bridge.

In the UK, 5000 love locks were removed earlier this year from the High Level Bridge over the River Tyne, between Newcastle upon Tyne and Gateshead in north east England.

And in Finland, two artists removed the love locks from the Patosilta Bridge, melted them down and turned them into an artwork called One Love.

It has been reported in Ireland that the issue of locking padlocks onto the bridges over the River Liffey comes up so often in the Dublin City Council that one official considered changing his computer password to “love locks”.

Here in Australia, they have been removed from a bridge in Canberra and the Southgate bridge in Melbourne.

In Canada, they were removed from the Humber Bay Bridge in Toronto and the Wild Pacific Trail on Vancouver Island; in the US from Brooklyn Bridge in New York City.

But there are places where love locks are encouraged — like on chains specially strung between posts in the appropriately named Lovelock, in Nevada.

Detroit company Shinola has recently added love locks to its product list. Couples can have their names engraved on the lock, and then attach it to a fence in Parker’s Alley, Detroit.

The custom-designed locks retail for $US25 and are made by local company Commando Lock Company.

“We are excited to revive this romantic gesture here in Detroit, the Paris of the Midwest, for locals and visitors to enjoy,” Shinola creative director Daniel Caudill says.

And the Houston Chronicle has reported how city officials think attaching love locks to the Rosemont Pedestrian Bridge in Buffalo Bayou Park is just fine.

“I think this is another way that people express themselves at a park. And it beats graffiti,” one city official is quoted as saying.

“You don’t want to take away something that is special to people like that.”

Unlocking a love story

It may be the love locks have their roots in Serbia. There’s a local story there about how World War I separated two lovers, and the one left behind fixed a lock to a bridge in the town of Vrnjacka Banja as a symbol of their love — to somehow lock them to this place, even though they were physically separated. This story became a poem by Desanka Maksimovic.

Then, in 2006, in a scene in Italian writer Federico Moccia’s novel’s “Ho Voglia di Te” (I Want You), a young couple fix a padlock to Rome’s Milvian Bridge to signify their unbreakable love.

The book is a sort of Italian version of the popular American “Twilight” series, which stirred romanticism in young people. And soon, lots of locks were appearing on the Milvian Bridge.


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