DOWNTOWN — Love may last forever, but love locks on Chicago's bridges most certainly do not.
The tradition started in Paris: couples affix a keyed lock to the Pont des Arts bridge and throw the key into the Seine below to signify the permanence of their love.
The romantic phenomenon has elevated the bridge's status as a tourist destination, and inspired copycats locking hardware to heavily-trafficked urban bridges around the globe, including on Chicago's movable bridges Downtown.
But they can also be dangerous: which is why the Chicago Department of Transportation cuts love locks off Chicago's bridges whenever they notice them.
"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," said Pete Scales, spokesman for the transportation department.
"It’s not for a lack of sentiment, but simply because it’s a public safety issue. Our bridges are regularly lifted for boat traffic, and we can’t vouch for the security of any of these locks, which are sometimes quite heavy."
Lizzie Schiffman says the city worries a lock will fall off and whack someone below when the bridge is raised:
The Pont des Arts bridge has suffered under the weight of thousands of locks, which have caused railings to collapse, forcing the bridge to close and be evacuated so crews could make sure it was still safe.
While the trend isn't popular enough in Chicago that the weight of the locks is a concern, Scales points out that "an unsecured padlock falling from 100 feet in the air onto a boat below could cause serious injury."
Scales said the city "routinely" removes padlocks from Downtown bridges while conducting regular maintenence. Scales said the Michigan Avenue Bridge in particular has been the subject of a concerted lock-removal effort "several times."
To discourage couples from damaging the bridge further, Paris recently launched "Love Without Locks" campaign. On Friday, the city Tweeted "our bridges can no longer withstand your gestures of love" and urged its followers to share the hashtag "#lovewithoutlocks."
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