Bridges and locks are a losing combination.
That is the message of the Department of Transportation which, several years after the globally popular tradition of couples affixing so-called “love locks” to picturesque spans first hit the Brooklyn Bridge, says tourists need to knock it off because the proliferation of padlocks has gotten dangerous.
“The NYC Department of Transportation currently spends millions of dollars each year removing graffiti in order to protect the bridge from corrosion,” the agency wrote on the official Brooklyn Bridge Facebook page. “A similar effort is required by the department to address the increasing occurrences of visitors installing ‘love locks’ on the bridge, many times directly over the roadway creating a hazard for motorists below.”
The locks dangle from street lamps over the road and a latticed section of fence lining the pedestrian walkway is lousy with them. Crews occasionally clip the offending fasteners, but the transportation commissioner says that the practice is getting more popular by the day.
“There has been a real increase, and we’re very, very concerned about them,” roads honcho Polly Trottenberg told ABC 7’s Eyewitness News.
In Paris, where some argue the custom originated, city officials have resorted to removing sections of footbridges because the weight of the metal devices threatens to pull down whole pieces of the structures. The problem is so pernicious that the City of Love’s tourism website pleads for visitors to find other ways to express their everlasting bond.
“It is wonderful to see such a vast amount of devoted couples; however the ritual is posing several problems due to the weight of the thousands of small steel padlocks,” the site says. “Certain sections of the railings are becoming weakened under the weight and sections of the grates require regular replacement.”
Here in New York, roads officials say concern over falling locks forces them to temporarily close lanes of traffic while teams clip the clasps.
Former Borough President Marty Markowitz had not heard of the phenomenon before a reporter’s call and first thought the idea was romantic. But after reading up, he walked back his position.
“Even if it’s a beautiful little thing, there’s always a downside,” said Markowitz, who is now the city’s tourism czar for the outer boroughs. “Those locks could fall and cause a lot of damage.”
But for Swedish tourists Henrik Salgfors and Mikaela Ahlquist, leaving a metal memento was something they could not skip on their Brooklyn trip.
“You have to do this when you come to New York,” Ahlquist said. “They don’t have this in Sweden!”
Markowitz has an alternative for lovebirds looking to leave their mark.
“I never want the Brooklyn Bridge to not be for lovers,” he said. “So, why not take a selfie with you and your lover smooching with the bridge tower in the background?”
— with Hannah Frishberg