Paris has replaced the padlocks on the Pont des Arts with padlock-themed graffiti

A construction worker removes a section of padlocked railings. Image: Getty.

Bridges seem pretty sturdy, right? Considering they're built to take the weight of lots of humans at once, you'd imagine they'd be able to withstand a few love tokens dropped off by romantic tourists.

Unless, of course, they're lumbered with 45 tonnes of them.


Such is the unfortunate fate of the Pont des Arts, a Parisian pedestrian bridge linking the Louvre to the south bank of the river. It's become tradition for loved up visitors to the French capital to mark their initials on a padlock, then hook it onto the bridge's railings. This has proved so popular that the bridge is now subject to structural weakening, and in the case of one section of railing, collapse.

The Parisian authorities have tried to dissuade tourists, and the padlock sellers swarming the bridge, with a "selfies, not padlocks" campaign. But this, unsurprisingly, doesn't seem to have caught on. 

So now they've been forced to take drastic measures. Earlier this month, cranes began detaching sections of the bridge's railings, padlocks and all, and carting them away for disposal:

In September, new plexiglass sheets will be installed – but for now, wooden boards designed by Parisian graffiiti artists have taken the place of the padlocks. As you can see, several have taken the opportunity to riff on the tradition: 

One couple who left a love-lock on the bridge last year wrote a response to the move on GMA, a Filipino news site, and seemed relatively unfazed by the fact that a symbol of their love will be unceremonially chucked away: "The tradition may be over, but the love certainly continues."

Euch.

All images: Getty.

 
 
 
 

Community-powered policies should be at the top of Westminster’s to do list

A generic election picture. Image: Getty.

Over the past five decades, political and economic power has become increasingly concentrated in the UK’s capital. Communities feel ignored or alienated by a politics that feels distant and unrepresentative of their daily experiences.

Since the EU referendum result it has become something of a cliché to talk about how to respond to the sense of powerlessness felt by too many people. The foundations of our economy have been shifted by Brexit, technology and deindustrialisation – and these have shone a light on a growing divergence in views and values across geographies and generations. They are both a symptom and cause of the breakdown of the ties that traditionally brought people together.

As the country goes through seismic changes in its outlook, politics and economy, it is clear that a new way of doing politics is needed. Empowering people to take control over the things that affect their daily lives cannot be done from the top down.

Last week, the Co-operative Party launched our policy platform for the General Election – the ideas and priorities we hope to see at the top of the next Parliament’s to do list. We have been the voice for co-operative values and principles in the places where decisions are made and laws are made. As co-operators, we believe that the principles that lie behind successful co‑operatives – democratic control by customers and workers, and a fair share of the wealth we create together – ought to extend to the wider economy and our society. As Labour’s sister party, we campaign for a government that puts these shared values into practice.

Our policy platform has community power at its heart, because the co-operative movement, founded on shop floors and factory production lines, knows that power should flow from the bottom up. Today, this principle holds strong – decisions are best made by the people impacted the most by them, and services work best when the service users have a voice. Our policy platform is clear: this means shifting power from Whitehall to local government, but it also means looking beyond the town hall. Co-operative approaches are about placing power directly in the hands of people and communities.


There are many great examples of Co-operative councillors and local communities taking the lead on this. Co-operative councils like Oldham and Plymouth have pioneered new working relationships with residents, underpinned by a genuine commitment to working with communities rather than merely doing things to them.

Building a fairer future is, by definition, a bottom-up endeavour. Oldham, Plymouth and examples like the Elephant Project in Greater Manchester, where people with experience of disadvantage are involved in decision-making, or buses in Witney run by Co-operative councillors and the local community – are the building blocks of creating a better politics and a fairer economy.

This thread runs through our work over the last few years on community wealth building too – keeping wealth circulating in local economies through growing the local co-operative sector. Worker-owned businesses thriving at the expense of global corporate giants and private outsourcers. Assets owned by communities – from pubs to post offices to rooftop solar panels.

And it runs through our work in Westminster too – with Co-operative MPs and peers calling for parents, not private business, to own and run nurseries; for the stewards of our countryside to be farmers rather than big landowners; and for workers to have a stake in their workplaces and a share of the profit.

Far from being ignored, as suggested in last week’s article on community power, our work has never been more relevant and our co-operative voice is louder than ever.

Anna Birley is policy offer at the Co-operative party.