Paris' Pont des Arts bridge famous for its "love locks" is facing structural damage under the weight of so much love. The city of love's bridge has been a space for thousands around the world to mark their love with a lock, while then throwing the key into the River Seine. Throwing the key further symbolized the testament to love and commitment. Recently, the historical Pont des Arts bridge has been in danger of crumble as the heavy locks bare too much weight for the structure to hold. June of last year was the first scare as a five foot section of the bridge's rail collapsed from the weight of the locks. Now local protestors are showing their own love for the bridge as they ignite their "no love lock" campaign. Paris officials are listening, as the city plans to immediately remove over 45 tons of locks. It is ironic that a tradition that promoted love and commitment now puts a beloved landmark in danger of demise. What will the loss of such a culturally rooted tradition mean for the city of love and it's hundreds of thousands of tourists?
The Force of Tradition
Tradition is a powerful force for human beings. Traditions develop over time as a certain act or event evoke warm emotions in people. Those emotions allow for connections to the people, places, and things that makeup that event. Human beings are then driven to re-create those connections time and time again in order to bring back those warm feelings.
The Pont des Arts bridge dates back to the time of Napolean in 1804. However, the tradition of the love locks only began in 2008, when tourists following a similar act done in Italy, wrote their names on the padlock and together with a loved one locked it on the bridge. The use of a padlock as a marking of love was traced to a novel by Frederico Moccia titled "I Want You." The act of using a lock and key as a symbol of love and devotion, in addition to being on a historical bridge in the city of love fueled emotions around the world. The power of these emotions was so intense that hundreds of thousands of people followed suit to take part in the tradition.
When news spread of the need to cut off the 45 tons of padlocks, people around the world reacted with different emotions. Many felt saddened, taking to social media to express a sense of loss. Interestingly, this sense of sadness and loss was felt by people who had never even visited the bridge or taken part in the tradition of placing a lock on the bridge. The power of this tradition and its ability to evoke love allowed even those who hadn't been to Paris to feel connected to its meaning.
Change also has a factor in the sense of sadness and loss that many are expressing. Tradition takes hold of a person's sense of meaning and purpose, so that the thought of changing a deeply emotional tradition such as the love locks has some feeling the need to fill the void. In addition to the irony of the love locks now endangering the integrity of the beloved bridge, tradition is plagued with irony as well. Human beings become so attached to romantic notions of a person, place, and thing, they can become stuck in a moment. It is that moment that fuels the idea of the tradition, even when the tradition itself no longer sustains the same details as it did in the past. For instance, initially the love locks were enticing to see in combination with this historical bridge, evoking more people to feel a part of the tradition. However, presently many tourists when they really stop to look at the thousands of locks acknowledge that the locks detract from the beauty of the bridge. People get so caught up in the emotions of the tradition that they overlook what is physically around them.
Spreading the Love
While thousands of people around the world are expressing sadness for the loss of the love locks and the tradition it has become, many understand the need to remove the locks in order to preserve the historical bridge. Even those who protested with the "no love lock" campaign, are trying to offer ideas for alternative acts of love on this famous bridge. These preservationists are encouraging tourists to be more culturally aware and while traditions and gestures of love are moving, it may be time to redirect the love to the Pont des Arts bridge itself and honor its history.
The Twitter campaign #lovewithoutlocks was started as a way to help people realize new traditions can be made. #lovewithoutlocks emphasizes that a padlock is not needed to show love, it is more about being present on the bridge with a loved one and embracing the culture of the city of love. The #lovewithoutlocks is moving people to take selfies with their loved ones on the bridge and to share with the world through this hashtag. In many ways this act allows for people to continue to share and connect in the spirit of love and meaning of the Pont des Arts bridge.
Blake, E. (2015). Paris Love Lock Bridge History: Why Romantic Gesture Irks Preservationists. International Business Times. Retreived from http://www.ibtimes.com/paris-love-lock-bridge-history-why-romantic-gesture-irks-preservationists-1947150
Kindelan, K. (2015). Paris Says ‘Au Revoir’ to Famous ‘Love Locks.’ ABCnews. Retrieved from http://abcnews.go.com/Lifestyle/paris-au-revoir-famous-love-locks/story?id=31444506