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Selfies, the new Paris love-lock?

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A couple embraces during sunset on the Pont des Arts with its fence covered with padlocks clipped by lovers over the River Seine in Paris, in this August 10, 2013. REUTERS/Christian Hartmann

Paris is asking love-struck couples strolling around the capital to refrain from affixing a lock to a city bridge and rather, snap a selfie in the name of love.


City Hall officials made the plea on Monday after months of mulling over how to stop couples from clipping “love-locks” on the city’s historic bridges over the Seine River.

Since 2008, when the trend first emerged in full force, thousands of lovers have inscribed their names, initials or messages on metal padlocks attached to the bridge rails. As tradition goes, the keys have been long discarded into the central Paris river as a gesture of eternal love.

But as the padlocks piled up, the bridges have been weighed down by love.

Estimates suggest that some near dozen bridges in Paris hold about 700,000 to 1 million padlocks -- with hundreds more added each day, according to the website "No Love Lock" run by two American expats in Paris unhappy with the plight of Paris's bridges.

In June, police had to hastily steer tourists off the famous bridge Pont des Arts when a section of metal mesh of the footbridge buckled under the weight of locks.

Even some historical statues on other bridges have become places for couples to put up a lock. And when the panels get full, city officials have to replace parts of the bridge by removing the old panels blanketed with padlocks and take them to a storage facility.

Now, city officials are hoping social media can restore the safety of Paris’s bridges. As of Wednesday, red heart-shaped notices in several languages will be put up urging amorous lovers to take a selfie and post it to a special website (lovewithoutlocks.paris.fr).

"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," local city officials said in its message.

In May, Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo opened up the discussion to the public to try and find an alternative to the love locks.

But the debate has not only been about safety – many have said the mounds of metal creating a near solid façade on bridge rails have become eyesores with destructive capabilities.

The two women -- both named Lisa -- who launched the anti-love lock website also gathered thousands of signatures for a petition they started in March that called for all of them to be removed.

Lisa Taylor Huff, a French-American writer who helped administer the petition with her friend Lisa Anselmo, welcomes the city’s move to encourage an alternative expression of love, but says it’s not enough. She thinks the practice should be banned as, in her opinion, not only is it dangerous and unsightly, but expensive when repairs need to be made.

“It’s almost like the city has given away these beautiful historic sites to tourism instead of keeping them safe and protected for Parisians,” said Huff. “You have to weigh out the image of love with responsible tourism.”