In 2008, couples with a flair for the romantic started sojourning to the Pont des Arts bridge in Paris to leave symbols of their everlasting love.
Tourists flocked to the popular pedestrian bridge to sign their initials on a padlock, lock it to the railing, and throw the key in the Seine river.
From the outset, it seemed like an adorable tradition. Surely, a bridge in the world’s most romantic city can handle a few mementos, right? Well, not quite. The Pont des Arts was not built to handle the additional 45 to 65 tons (yes, tons!) of padlocks added by visitors. In 2014, the bridge was evacuated after part of the railing collapsed.
Love is strong. Stone and iron can only take so much.
Authorities tried to discourage the love locks practice, even suggesting selfies instead, but tourists (and zealous padlock salespeople near the bridge) weren’t swayed.
So in 2015, the city completely remove the railings (locks and all) and replaced them with sheets of plexiglass.
Cranes were required to get the job done, as lifting more than 1 million padlocks is no easy feat.
The result? No more heavy locks. No more keys in the Seine (this was especially important to Paris’s mayor, Anne Hidalgo who pledged to clean up the polluted waterway). And a stronger, safer bridge for all.
Since the new look more than a year ago, most lovebirds assumed their locks were discarded. But Paris being Paris, they found a way for all that love to live on.
Beginning early next year, 10 tons of the locks, which were removed from the bridge in 2015, will be sold to raise money for groups and organizations supporting refugees in the Paris metro area.
“Members of the public can buy five or 10 locks, or even clusters of them, all at an affordable price,” Bruno Julliard, first deputy mayor of Paris told reporters at a press event.
Julliard expects to raise just over $107,000 (100,000 euros) for local groups supporting refuges in the region, though details are scarce on which organizations will receive the money or how much individual locks will cost.
The remaining locks will be melted down and sold as scrap metal.
This has the potential to be a great solution to a popular problem.
The Pont des Arts isn’t the only bridge with a love lock problem, and this could be a viable solution for public spaces around the world.
Couples have the opportunity to potentially buy their lock back or to own a little piece of history. A popular bridge stays clean and safe. And the project supports thousands of refugees living in and around the city. It’s forward thinking, eco-friendly, and supports people in need.
What’s not to love?