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Council considers lovers' amnesty as it tackles weighty issue

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The city council could offer an amnesty to the owners of hundreds of ‘love locks’ attached to the Adelaide University footbridge – before removing them to mitigate any danger the romantic tributes might pose to the public.

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The council will tonight consider removing the metal padlocks from the footbridge because of the “low-level risk” that someone may sustain an injury walking or cycling into one, and the possibility – so slight that engineers say it’s not worth a full assessment – that the weight of the locks could one day compromise the structural integrity of the bridge.

In February, the council asked its engineers to assess whether the locks posed a structural risk to the popular footbridge.

But the bridge – from which an FJ Holden was famously suspended as a prank in 1971 – is at no risk of collapsing under their weight, at least for the next decade, a report to be presented at tonight’s council meeting says.

Students suspended an FJ Holden under the footbridge as a Prosh Day prank in 1971.

Students suspended an FJ Holden under the footbridge as a Prosh Day prank in 1971.

The bigger risk, the report says, is of pedestrians or cyclists “potentially injuring themselves or tearing clothing on a protruding lock”.

“This matter is currently considered a low-level risk for [the] council but is progressively increasing.”

A pedestrian walks across the Adelaide University footbridge despite the danger of the "protruding" padlocks. Photo: Tony Lewis / InDaily

A pedestrian dices with danger, crossing the Adelaide University footbridge despite the “protruding” padlocks. Photo: Tony Lewis / InDaily

The report recommends the council offer a three-month amnesty to the owners of the padlocks so they can remove them, and commission a $30,000 artwork to which future sweethearts could attach their metallic declarations of love.

It says the strength of the bridge is “unlikely to be compromised for at least the next ten years … based on the rate of accumulation of the locks on the bridge”.

“… A structural review was considered to be of limited value and it is recommended that this not be pursued at this time.”

But South Ward Councillor Alex Antic, who proposed the original review, said that “if the trend continues they will become a loading problem eventually”.

“What we’ve seen is the progressive build-up of locks,” he told ABC 891 radio this morning.

“Right at this very moment, there are not very many of them and since it was first raised I think people might have come down and [collected] their locks …

“To me, there seem to be less down there, but in any event the trend is that they are building up, and over time that is going to have a weight impact.”

Antic compared the bridge over the River Torrens to the Pont des Arts in Paris, France, from which almost one million love locks – weighing about 45 tonnes – were removed in mid-2015.

France's Pont des Arts in Paris featured almost one million love locks before they were removed in 2015. Photo: AAP

France’s Pont des Arts in Paris featured almost one million love locks before they were removed in 2015. Photo: AAP

Decidedly fewer locks hang on the Adelaide bridge. Photo: Tony Lewis / InDaily

Decidedly fewer locks hang on the Adelaide bridge. Photo: Tony Lewis / InDaily

A council spokesperson told InDaily there was no formal process to monitor the numbers of locks on the bridge, but that it was assessed regularly by sight.

Adelaide’s recreational “locksport” community has offered to unpick the locks, so they can be transferred to the proposed artwork without being cut.

Any locks that cannot be picked would be “cut off and disposed of”, the council report says.

The proposed position for the public artwork. Image: supplied

The proposed position for the public artwork. Image: supplied

“We’ve had an approach from a recreational community who have very kindly offered to come and pick the locks for us if the keys aren’t there,” said Antic.

“They have … an interest in the art and the science of lock picking, of working the tumblers.

“They’ve offered to come and have a crack – so I think it’s a win-win.”

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