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Home Tourist Attraction Love locks weigh heavy on tourist attractions

Love locks weigh heavy on tourist attractions

by Staff

It is, they claim, a tradition dating back millennia: a declaration of love designated by attaching a padlock to a monument and throwing away the key. Except it is not.

Tourism chiefs are growing increasingly exasperated at the trend and are urging visitors to leave their locks at home — or face fines.

“When you look online there are plenty of places that claim the tradition goes back thousands of years,” said Dr Ceri Houlbrook, a lecturer in folklore and history at the University of Hertfordshire.

“But when I started digging I found that there is no evidence to suggest it’s older than the 1980s. Even then, it was nothing to do with love.”

Houlbrook’s research traced the tradition to Pécs in Hungary, where padlocks attached to a public fence were a sign not of love but of punk dissent towards Soviet rule.

“It was really in 2006 and Federico Moccia’s Ho Voglia di Te [I Want You], the Italian teenage romance novel, that did it,” she said. In it the characters padlock a lamp post near the Milvio Bridge in Rome and then throw the key in the Tevere [Tiber] river.

“Moccia claims to have just invented the custom,” she said. “The novel was so popular people began imitating the practice. It just grew from there. How rapidly it spread is quite amazing.”

Even this metal chain fence at the Liverpool is adorned with locks

ALAMY

Houlbrook now has a database of more than 500 love-lock sites across 65 countries on every continent bar Antarctica.

The plague of the locks has caused issues in cities across the world, from London and Melbourne to New York and Paris, as well as many geographical sites.

“Love is strong, but it is not as strong as our bolt cutters,” the Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona said in a new social media campaign against the locks.

Tom Jenkins, the chief executive of Etoa, the European tourism association, said: “As declarations of lasting love go, the locks are a strangely ephemeral way of showing it. More and more destinations are waking up to the fact that if they want this to stop, they need to take them away immediately. It’s become like graffiti: people copy each other.”

In Newcastle, about 5,000 locks were removed from the High Level Bridge over the Tyne, but people attached new locks

In Newcastle, about 5,000 locks were removed from the High Level Bridge over the Tyne, but people attached new locks

ALAMY

Tourism industry associations report that destinations are becoming increasingly aggressive in their deterrents. Officials in New York will issue fines of up to $100 to anyone caught padlocking.

The New York City Department of Transportation removed more than 11,000 locks from Brooklyn Bridge in 2015. In the same year authorities in Melbourne removed 20,000 locks from the Evan Walker Bridge after their weight began to cause structural issues.

In Paris, the so-called Capital of Love, parts of the Pont des Arts, a pedestrian bridge over the Seine, collapsed in 2014 because of the weight of locks. This year hundreds of padlocks were removed from fences around Montmartre in the 18th arrondissement.

· Paris falls out of love with bridge’s million love locks

“The locks are a form of both vandalism and litter,” said Jeff Stebbins, a spokesman at the Grand Canyon National Park. The park is grappling with the fact that many couples who attach locks then discard the keys in the park. At many bridges, keys are thrown into the river below.

Stebbins echoed Jenkins’ concerns that love locks encourage other forms of vandalism including graffiti and litter.

“People come to national parks and other undeveloped places to appreciate the beauty of the natural world,” he said, adding that padlocks are “effectively vandalising and littering and ultimately damaging public lands for both people and wildlife”.

Houlbrook believes the trend is past its peak given that a younger, “more cynical generation” would not dream of doing something so “corny”.

Love locks were removed from  the Pont des Arts amid concerns that the weight could bring part of the bridge crashing down into the river below

Love locks were removed from  the Pont des Arts amid concerns that the weight could bring part of the bridge crashing down into the river below

JOHN VAN HASSELT/CORBIS/GETTY

Tourism chiefs are coming up with schemes to prevent locks being put on monuments, most notably by installing structures for tourists to attach locks. Others, Houlbrook said, had installed containers for people to put keys in. “There are ways around it,” she said. “Destinations need to adapt.”

In Bakewell, in the Peak District, the council is seeking to remove the locks placed on the Wye Bridge — known as “love lock bridge” — as it looks to carry out maintenance work.

In Newcastle, after about 5,000 locks were removed from the High Level Bridge over the Tyne, people tried to put new ones back on. Anyone crossing Westminster Bridge, Tower Bridge or the Millennium Bridge can expect to see locks attached to the London structures.

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