Anderson Lock loves locks, but we don’t love Love Locks!

What are Love Locks? They are padlocks, often engraved or marked with the lovers’ initials and a date, that are attached to bridges, statues, fences or monuments by couples as a symbolic gesture of eternal love.

Endangered California Condor

The Grand Canyon National Park Service (NPS) recently joined popular tourist destinations around the world in condemning the practice of couples “locking their love” with a padlock attached to a place that has sentimental significance to them, then throwing away the key.

Rare and endangered condors inhabit the Grand Canyon, and they are drawn to shiny things. When lovebirds chuck their key into the canyon after leaving their lock on a fence, a real bird might swallow it.

“Condors love shiny things. They will spot a coin, a wrapper, or a shiny piece of metal, like a key from a padlock that has been tossed into the canyon and eat it. Condors are not meant to digest metal and many times cannot pass these objects,” the NPS posted. Some of the birds have died, some have required surgery to remove the metal keys.

A recent news headline highlighted the Grand Canyon NPS Facebook post which referred to Love Locks with its warning: “Love is strong, but our bolt cutters are stronger.”

In 2010, I wrote a blog about Lock Art which featured tree-shaped sculptures, photographed in Seoul, South Korea, which had been designed specifically for Love Locks. At that time the romantic ritual, which may have originated over a hundred years ago, but which grew in popularity following the publication of a story in 2000, was already gaining momentum across Europe and Asia.

The blog quoted Lee Jung-hoon’s observation, that “lock sales had increased sharply.” However, he also noted, “The locks seem to have no binding power.” Jung-hoon had sold a second lock, only two months after a Romeo had purchased the first one, “with another woman.”

Michigan Avenue Bridge

The Chicago Department of Transportation cuts Love Locks off downtown bridges whenever they notice them. The Michigan Avenue Bridge in particular is targeted for lock removal efforts. A spokesman for the transportation department said, “While it’s nice that people want to remember Chicago as the place they fell in love, we can’t condone folks clamping padlocks to our movable bridges.” In 2014, a critic of the policy noted, “…the city worries a lock will fall off and whack someone in a boat below when the bridge is raised!”

In recent years, padlocks, new and old, have been removed from fences and structures around the world. Sadly, there are still profiteers who continue to encourage couples to think that fastening another Love Lock at an already overloaded scenic site is a romantic thing to do. Some online sellers specially engrave your initials and your message on your lock.

Pont des Arts bridge in Paris, before a section of the the fence collapsed

In Paris, 65 tons of padlocks were removed from the Pont des Arts bridge, after a portion of fence on the bridge collapsed. However, there are 37 bridges connecting the Left and Right Banks, and there were Love Locks on many of them. One estimate guessed there could be “two million rusted keys in the bottom of the river Seine.”

As in the Grand Canyon in 2023, the keys are often as much of a problem as the rusted, unsightly locks. People around the world are joining forces to “Block Love Locks” and are promoting their cause online with the hashtag “#lovewithoutlocks.”

Paris currently has a zero tolerance policy for Love Locks. Since the Middle Ages, the ‘City of Light and Love’ has been a romantic destination. More than 35 million tourists a year travel there. But Parisians complain that the tens of thousands of heavy, rusting padlocks are ruining their once-beautiful French capital.

Five ‘Block Love Locks’ Facts:

  1. Padlocks rust, and rust spreads to metal fencing, degrading the integrity of bridges.
  2. The weight of the locks damages bridges, and other structures, leading to costly repairs.
  3. Love Locks are a tourist trend, which, when fastened to historic monuments, represent vandalism, which is punishable under local statutes and codes.
  4. Love Locks open the door to other kinds of damage, like littering, graffiti, and environmental pollution.
  5. Love Locks do not rationally symbolize, and certainly do not guarantee, eternal love!

All over the world, city governments and national parks are begging people to please stop weighing down bridges, and other architecturally significant structures with Love Locks and then throwing away the key.

Anderson Lock encourages people to use padlocks for their intended purposes of providing portable security, preventing unauthorized access and theft, and promoting safety by keeping employees out of potentially dangerous work areas.