Beautiful bridges in Paris are being ruined by an epidemic of padlocks. But is the growing trend for love-locks a thoughtless act of vandalism, or just a harmless expression of love?
It seemed romantic when Carolyn Barnabo and Clive Roberts attached a padlock to the Pont des Arts and symbolically threw the key into the Seine. Five years later they are married and their love is still strong, but Carolyn’s fondness for love-locks certainly isn’t. “It’s just out of control and I feel so bad that we contributed to it,” says Carolyn. “This beautiful bridge is ruined.” There were just a few love-locks on the bridge when she attached hers and posted photos on her blog. Now there are thousands on bridges all over Paris.
The locks first started appearing on bridges in Paris around 2006, shortly after young couples in Italy had begun attaching padlocks to the Ponte Milvio over Rome’s river Tiber, mimicking the protagonists of a popular Italian novel. In 2007 the mayor of Rome introduced fines for anyone leaving a padlock on this bridge. “After Rome started forbidding the locks, couples from all over Europe came to Paris,” Lorna Taylor explains. She and friend Lisa Anselmo started the No Love-Locks campaign in January 2014. “The delicate Pont des Arts, which has become a freakish mass of indistinguishable metal pieces, is now in mortal danger,” Lisa Anselmo adds. They say the City of Love has now become the City of Locks, and they have counted at least eight bridges over the Seine and three over the Canal Saint Martin where padlocks have spread “like fungus.” Anselmo thinks that this trend “defaces and damages historic structures, and it is already imposing itself on other cities around Europe, where some of the bridges involved are hundreds of years old.”
The padlock supposedly symbolises a bond between two people in love—but local authorities are now removing some padlocks from time to time. It was only after a wall on the Pont des Arts collapsed under the weight of the locks that the Paris authorities got serious about putting an end to the practice. “Some of the railings have 500 kilograms of locks by the time they are removed. The one that collapsed weighed 700 kilograms. They’re a costly problem for the city and also a safety one,” Lorna Taylor says. Now, city officials in Paris are experimenting with panels of thick glass to protect the bridges from the damage caused by padlocks.
Described as an “epidemic” by the No Love-Locks campaign, padlocks are spreading around the world, and they are no longer restricted to bridges. Love-locks have appeared on the top of the Eiffel Tower and others can be found on fences in London. And they are not restricted to tourist destinations either—four have already appeared on St Botolph’s Bridge in Boston, Lincolnshire, which only opened in February 2014. Many businesses have benefitted from this trend: some offer engraved padlocks in heart shapes and even one website suggests locations to attach them in Amsterdam, Chicago, Prague, Rome or Sydney. Lisa Anselmo says: “If a city wants to designate a space uniquely for love-locks, and restrict the practice on non-designated areas, that’s not a bad idea. The question is how to find a way for love-locks and heritage to co-exist.”
Despite attaching her own love lock in Paris five years ago, Carolyn now regrets that she contributed to this horrendous sight. “I would hate to see any beautiful bridges in England get like that. It was a nice idea, but I hope it dies out soon.”
Text adapted from BBC News (May 5, 2014)
- padlock, lock: cadenat / candado
- mayor: alcalde
- defaces (to deface): desfigurar
- bond: lligam / vínculo
- railing: barana / barandilla
- trend: tendència, moda / tendencia, moda
- heritage: patrimoni històric / patrimonio histórico
Choose the best answer according to the text. Only ONE answer is correct.
1. Carolyn Barnabo and Clive Roberts left a lock on a bridge in Paris
- because it was a romantic thing to do.
- to contribute to the Parisian tradition.
- because they were fond of locks.
- in order to write an entry in a blog.
2. Which of the sentences is FALSE? The custom of attaching locks on bridges
- was made popular by an Italian novel.
- is prohibited in Rome.
- follows an Italian tradition.
- was exported to Paris.
3. The phrase “padlocks have spread like fungus” means that
- fungus appear on the bridges where padlocks are attached.
- padlocks are attached mainly on historic bridges.
- eight bridges over the river Seine were seriously deteriorated.
- padlocks have appeared in great quantities and very quickly.
4. The municipal authorities in Paris decided to eradicate this practice
- after they had removed padlocks from bridges several times.
- when part of a historic bridge fell because of the weight of the locks.
- only when the eight bridges got covered by 500 kilograms of locks.
- when the railings of the Pont des Arts had to be removed.
5. The city of Paris is putting panels of glass on bridges
- to protect the locks that are already attached.
- to let people see the locks more safely.
- to prevent the damage that the locks cause.
- to make an experiment on the bridges.
6. According to the text, padlock sellers
- are making profits from this epidemic.
- sell only heart-shaped padlocks.
- tell you where you must put yours.
- sell them only through their website.
- are restricted in European cities, like Paris or London.
- are limited to bridges or fences.
- are not found in non-tourist destinations.
- can now be found in a variety of places.
8. Lisa Anselmo thinks that it would be a good idea for local authorities
- to assign a place for people to attach their locks.
- to restrict love-locks anywhere in the city.
- to keep love-locks in historic areas.
- to forbid love-locks everywhere, once and for all.