Paris love locks: Can romance and ethics be reconciled?

Paris is set to remove close to a million locks from the Pont Des Arts bridge, a move that has satisfied Paris residents and upset many romantic tourists.

Remy de la Mauviniere/AP
The Eiffel tower appears through the partly lock-free railing of the famed Pont des Arts bridge in Paris on Monday.

Millions of couples travel to Paris each year to experience the city's iconic landmarks and eat in the small cafés that line the winding, cobble-stoned streets. Most importantly, they come looking for romance.

Some of that romantic feeling may be dashed now that Paris authorities have called for the removal of love-inspired locks from the Pont des Arts bridge.

Over 45 tons of locks are set to be removed, according to the Associated Press. The bridge is located in an UNESCO World Heritage Site that spans the banks of the Seine River and includes architectural masterpieces like the Notre-Dame and the Sainte Chapelle. Proponents of the decision have used this to their advantage, arguing that the locks have caused damage to the historic bridge. 

What can be done when romance and ethics clash so brilliantly?

Selfies, said Paris officials.

According to the Telegraph, in the summer of 2014 signs were put up around the bridge encouraging couples to take a selfie with the hashtag, #lovewithoutlocks, and post it on Twitter. However, the campaign did not stem the tide of locks attached to the bridge on a daily basis. 

Tourists are driven to the bridge by the millions of pictures posted on social media outlets like Instagram and Facebook. The simple hashtag, #lovelocks, has almost 60,000 pictures on Instagram. Not surprisingly, a romantic gesture turned into a tourist phenomenon through the power of the Internet.

Lisa Anselmo and Lisa Taylor Huff decided they wanted to do something about it.

Both Americans living in Paris, they created No Love Locks, a group opposed to the love lock fad. 

Ms. Anselmo wrote a blog post that went viral and highlights the Parisian's frustration. 

"When you can clearly see there is not one centimeter of space to hang your lock, maybe it's a sign this idea is played out. been done to death...It's not that we don't embrace your love; we love that you love. But perhaps, you could find some other way to show your undying devotion, something that doesn't, say, damage historic structures and burden the city with maintenance costs."

The removal of the locks is a victory for those like Anselmo and Ms. Taylor Huff, but some tourists are upset.

Cathy Hominage, who was visiting from Washington D.C., told Reuters TV that she was unaware of the new padlock ban.

"We came with the idea of putting a lock [on the bridge] but we found out it's closed and illegal now – so we are just going to put it here at the very end of the bridge so no one can see." 

However, cities across the world have proven that romance can be ethical. 

In Moscow, they have created a "tree of locks" out of metal and in Toronto fences have been built specifically for love locks. 

As Bruno Julliard, the Deputy Mayor of Paris told reporters, "We want all the people who are in love, we want them to come to Paris but we don't want them to use love locks."

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