NPR Story
2:46 pm
Tue April 8, 2014

Debate Over 'Love Locks' On Paris Bridges

“Love locks” can be found on bridges from Australia to Italy, and even in U.S. cities like Norfolk, Virginia. The padlocks are latched onto pedestrian bridges and inscribed with vows of love. The keys are tossed into the water below as an testament of unbreakable devotion.

No one knows where the practice started, but hundreds of thousands of these locks adorn bridges in Paris. Some say it was from the 2006 novel, “Ho Voglia Di Te” (I Want You), by Italian author Federico Moccia, while other believe it was at the Seoul Tower in Korea.

Some feel this public demonstration of love is an eyesore. Lisa Anselmo and Lisa Taylor Huff are founders of the “No Love Locks” campaign. They’re worried not only about the aesthetic of these locks, but also the negative effect it’s having on the infrastructure of the historic footbridges.

The two have created a petition to press the Parisian government to remove the locks permanently and create an alternative way for people show their love.

Here & Now’s Robin Young speaks with Anselmo and Huff about their campaign.

Guests

Copyright 2014 WBUR-FM. To see more, visit http://www.wbur.org.

Transcript

ROBIN YOUNG, HOST:

Well, now to love locks. Have you seen them on bridges near you? Not the kind of locks that allow ships through, but padlocks hung on bridges, inscribed with vows of love, keys tossed in the water below to signify unbreakable devotion. Bridges in Paris are covered with them. And our next guests have started the No Love Locks campaign to stop what they see as an eyesore and more. Lisa Taylor Huff joins us by Skype from her home in Paris. Lisa, are you there?

LISA TAYLOR HUFF: Yes, I am.

YOUNG: And we also have Lisa Anselmo joining us from the NPR studios in New York, where she lives when she is not in Paris. Lisa Anselmo, welcome to you as well.

LISA ANSELMO: Thank you.

YOUNG: Lisa Taylor Huff, how bad is it in Paris?

HUFF: In the last two years the problem has increased at least tenfold. Both the insides and the exteriors of the fencing on the bridge, it's just insanity.

YOUNG: Well, Lisa Anselmo in New York, what's wrong with that?

ANSELMO: You know, on paper it sounds like a really romantic idea. But in practice, you really see when it's gone out of control and become this sort of monster meme. You know, yes, it is aesthetically unpleasing. These bridges are disfigured by the locks. And they hang locks everywhere, including on the lamps along the bridges. And then, of course, there's very real issues with the weight.

For example, the Pont (unintelligible) which is a footbridge, not meant to handle cars, for example, has about 93 metric tons or about 102 and a half U.S. tons of metal hanging on it. And that's about the equivalent of, say, 20 elephants. And it's not designed to take that weight. These are historic structures, in many cases, not just in Paris but all around the world. And they're being destroyed and damaged by this trend.

YOUNG: Well, you're getting a lot of support from local politicians. The mayor of the 6th Arrondissement called the displays of locks madness. But as you well know, there are others who are weighing in on social media. You know, you're kind of a party-pooper.

ANSELMO: Well, I have to say we're getting hundreds more comments and messages of support than we are these sort of party-pooper messages, which has to tell you that the locals who live in these cities who are inundated by this trend are really the ones suffering and really the ones we should be thinking about right now.

HUFF: Yeah. I completely agree with that because, you know, you want to go to your favorite romantic city on your vacation, you want to do something that you think is kind of cool or different. But the reality is that I think as tourists, you have a responsibility to be respectful of the city you're visiting and not leave something behind that damages a monument or a historic bridge. It's just gotten so ugly that I can't even see how someone could look at it and see love because all we see is vandalism at this point.

ANSELMO: I mean, we know that tourists love Paris. Show the love. You know, show your love first to the city. And maybe there's another way that you can express your love that doesn't leave a mark.

YOUNG: Throw a coin a fountain.

ANSELMO: At least there's money left behind to help with the repairs in that case.

(LAUGHTER)

YOUNG: Well - and you know...

HUFF: Exactly.

YOUNG: ...nobody knows where this started. It might have been from an Italian novel or from the Seoul Tower in Korea where it was being done. But now this idea of love locks, padlocks locked on to structures, it's in Australia, Norfolk, Virginia. I almost worry that in spreading your caution about it, more people are going to do it.

HUFF: You know, I think the thing is our campaign is really twofold. Yes, we have the petition to try to get the city of Paris, the authorities, to be more proactive. But we are also working on educating the public about the trend in general. And is it - it's kind of over. I don't really understand how people can attach a lock to something, and then the lock will rust and cause damage. And then they throw the key in the river, which pollutes the rivers.

ANSELMO: Honestly, the travel guides, the magazines, the tour guides, they're the ones promoting it. They're probably doing more damage than our campaign would ever do because we have a gallery of photos that show the damage. And I have to tell you, we get a lot of people who have had a change of heart. Many people have said, you know, I put a lock on the bridge. I feel terrible about it now. And they join forces with us and they help spread the word.

YOUNG: That's Lisa Taylor Huff along with Lisa Anselmo, founder of the No Love Locks campaign. We'll link you up to pictures of what these locks on bridges in Paris look like at hereandnow.org. Lisas, thank you so much.

HUFF: Thank you very much.

ANSELMO: Thank you so much for the opportunity.

YOUNG: And Meghna, this is one of those times where I say where have I been? And I guess the answer is not Paris.

(LAUGHTER)

MEGHNA CHAKRABARTI, HOST:

Exactly.

YOUNG: Look at this picture at our website.

CHAKRABARTI: It's amazing. The bridge is covered with them.

YOUNG: Covered. Covered with padlocks. Go to hereandnow.org. You will see, in case you're thinking, oh, what could be the problem be? So no love locks, people. And don't put your initials in trees either. OK. I'm done.

CHAKRABARTI: Rant over.

YOUNG: HERE AND NOW is a production of NPR and WBUR Boston in association with the BBC World Service. I'm Robin Young.

CHAKRABARTI: I'm Meghna Chakrabarti. This is HERE AND NOW. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.