Parisian officials have released a message imploring love-struck visitors to show their affection without fastening padlocks to bridges. Experts say the craze has begun to cause lasting damage to the structures.
On Monday, authorities from Paris' City Hall issued a plea for lovers not to follow the craze of attaching a padlock etched with their name and their beloved's to one of the city's numerous bridges.
Officials said the structures were crumbling under the extra weight. Instead, a new campaign is urging people to take a "selfie", and tweet it using the hashtag #lovewithoutlocks.
They can also post it on the #link:http://lovewithoutlocks.paris.fr/#
Officials say tourists need to understand there are consequences for their actions. "The idea is to give couples the alternative of a selfie instead of a love lock and explain that they are weighing too heavily on Parisian bridges," they said.
The exact origins of the "love locks" are unclear, with some attributing their popularity to a Serbian story about a jilted bride, and young girls affixing locks to the bridge where the ill-fated pair used to meet. More recently Italian author Federico Moccia was also blamed for starting the craze. In a scene from his book "I Want You," the main couple attach their own lock to a lampost on the Ponte Milvio bridge in northern Rome, leading to copycat locks from local couples. Once the lamppost became too full, young lovers simply added the locks wherever there was free space on the bridge.
In Paris, the trend is believed to have really taken off in 2008, with tourists coming from across the globe to add their lock to the collection, and throw the key into the Seine.
"Love locks" now appear on bridges around the world.
In March, two Americans living in Paris came up with a petition calling for the locks to be removed from the famous Pont des Arts bridge, calling them eyesores and claiming they were damaging the structure. Then, in June, tourists had to be evacuated from the same bridge, when part of its railing collapsed under the added weight of thousands of padlocks. Environmentalists have also expressed concern over the damage done by the keys from the locks being thrown into the river.
In Germany railway company Deutsche Bahn caused controversy when it threatened to remove the locks crowding Cologne's Hohenzollern bridge, but was forced to back down in the face of fierce public opposition.
The section of railing on Paris' Pont des Arts Bridge that collapsed in June 2014, due to the weight of thousands of "love locks".
Too much love?
Parisian officials say they are hopeful people will appreciate the move is an effort to protect the city's famous architecture.
"It's the first step in a wider action plan ... an initial communication effort to tell people that love locks are not good for Paris's cultural heritage and that actually, it's not an ideal way to symbolise love," they said.
But they have reassured hopeful couples there won't be a penalty for those who don't follow their suggestion.