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PARIS — It has become a ritual for lovers visiting one of the most romantic cities in the world — but the practice of attaching personalized ‘love locks’ to the Pont des Arts over the River Seine is being challenged by an American woman.
The practice began about a decade ago. Couples — mostly tourists — buy padlocks and inscribe their names or initials before attaching the lock to the bridge and throwing the key into the river as a sign of everlasting love.
As many as three quarters of a million metal locks now cover the bridge, forcing the city government to step in and ask tourists to demonstrate their romantic commitment in other ways.
Last year part of the bridge collapsed under the weight of the locks, and officials responded by covering a section with plywood. Then the wood became festooned with graffiti, so it was replaced by temporary glass panels.
The idea has spread around the world, and the metal clamps have appeared everywhere, including the New York’s Brooklyn Bridge, the Luzhkov Bridge in Moscow and the bridge on Yellow Mountain in Huangshan, China.
Among those attaching a ‘love lock’ in Paris on Saturday — Valentine’s Day — was Peter Concepcion, from Los Angeles, and his wife, Ivy Gambo. "Happy wife, happy life," said Peter. "I guess it is a city of love tradition, people do it all the time. It’s been her for years. Might as well take part in it."
But Lisa Taylor-Huff, an American who lives in Paris, had decided to take action, saying the city hasn’t done enough to stop the practice.
Her No Love Locks website has collected 10,000 signatures, and spreads the word about the problematic locks.
"Paris was romantic before love locks, it is going to be romantic after love locks, and people need to stop thinking attaching a lock is the most romantic thing you can do," she said. "Americans we have a different way of approaching problems. We do have that can-do spirit.”
Paris deputy mayor Bruno Julliard insists the city is trying to grapple with the tradition, which is now spreading to bridges all over Paris, without discouraging tourists.
"We don't want the love locks on the bridge. It's not very beautiful and it is dangerous," he said. We want [people] to come to Paris, but we don't want them to put love locks. There are so many other ways to say 'I love you' — maybe with SMS or with email."