For years, lovestruck Parisians and tourists alike had affixed locks, often inscribed with their initials, names or brief messages, to the railing and fencing along Paris’s Pont des Arts, before tossing the keys into the Seine River below. The gesture was said to symbolize a couple’s everlasting love.
But beauty ultimately turned to menace and the city’s love affair with the practice soon soured. By 2014, the bridge had become inundated with locks and a section of the railing collapsed under the weight of so many declarations of love. Citing aesthetic and structural concerns, Paris officials removed some 700,000 padlocks, weighing an estimated 45 tons, and replaced the bridge’s fencing with padlock-proof plexiglass panels. Au revoir love locks!
For better or worse, love locks are alive and well in many other cities around the world -- including here in Houston.
H-Town actually has two popular love lock locales for those bent on proclaiming their undying love, hardware in hand -- though there are far and above more love locks affixed to one than the other.
The most accoutred of the two is a small pedestrian bridge stretching over Allen Parkway. The bridge perpetually shimmers with a smattering of love locks which dangle from its chain-link fence. The small crossing may not be the most romantic of locations (most likely view it merely as an access point to Eleanor Tinsley Park, one of the city’s most trafficked outdoor attractions) but others (typically the kind of people that look at life through rose-colored glasses) will appreciate what it has to offer -- somewhat obstructed views of downtown Houston’s skyline, thanks to the numerous love locks, and an aura of romance, thanks to the numerous love locks.
Love locks also often accumulate on the Rosemont Pedestrian Bridge nearby. The location, often lauded as one of the Inner Loop’s most scenic spots, soars over Buffalo Bayou and offers treetop views of Buffalo Bayou Park and Houston’s downtown skyscrapers. Beautiful as it is, it doesn’t exactly resemble Paris’s Pont des Arts in its heyday as a love lock bridge. Because Rosemont Bridge lacks chain link fencing and its railing is relatively thick, couples intent on locking in their love may struggle to seal shut their padlocks.
Houstonians may have latched onto love locks but, thankfully, the custom hasn’t yet threatened to down any infrastructure. At any given time, there are under a thousand locks chained to the pedestrian bridge over Allen Parkway (a far cry from the Pont des Arts’ some 700,000) and the Rosemont Bridge reps far less hardware. The city periodically prunes locks from the bridges as the need arises.
“To me, if it’s not a hindrance to the health and safety of people, and this is one of those things that’s kind of special between two people, we don’t want to stand in the way of that unless it’s problematic for the bridge,” said Michael Isermann, deputy director of facilities management and development for the city’s parks and recreation department, which oversees to Rosemont Bridge. “It’s better than carving a heart and an arrow into a tree, right?”
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