Very Real Hazards

Think padlocks on a bridge being hazards is a joke? Think it's ridiculous? Read on:

The purpose of rails on a pedestrian bridge is safety. Rails are there so that people can fall against them without falling off the bridge. Falling against bridge rails should not be made more hazardous by the addition of hundreds of angular, rusty, protruding chunks of metal to the rails. It's one thing to hit a bare iron rail and possibly get scraped or bruised. But drag your body across a bunch of angular, rusty, protruding locks...

Banging into a pedestrian bridge rail without suffering a serious injury is an entirely reasonable expectation. When people walk, jog, or cycle on a bridge, they should be able to fall against the rails, grab onto them, or accidentally sideswipe them without being slashed, gashed, punctured, impaled, or even receiving life-altering facial scars or losing of an eye, depending on things like how the person happens to be falling when he or she hits the locks and whether they're an adult or a child and consequently how tall or short they are. Someone's in-your-face expression of love could become someone else's in-their-face tragedy.

Australian city (Adelaide, pop. 1.3 million, capital of South Australia) removes love locks because they are hazards.


But what are the odds?

Admittedly, the odds of running into a single padlock on a long bridge rail may be tiny, even negilgible. However, those odds are finite, and thus multiplicable, not zero, or infinitessimal.

So if you add another padlock to the rail, you double the odds of someone running into a lock. Add still another lock, and you triple those odds. Now add thousands of padlocks, till they're everywhere on the rails on both sides of the bridge. So what are the odds now?

Instead of having to have the misfortune of hitting that one little spot where that one padlock happened to be, now all you have to do is run into any part of the rails.


"Thank God it wasn't my son. Or his face."

It happened to a Canadian woman bike riding with her 11-year-old son. As she dismounted from her bike, her forearm snagged a lock on a bridge. The gaping wound she received started bleeding profusely. She started going into shock. Luckily, strangers came along and applied a tourniquet. At the emergency room, 21 stitches were needed to close her wound, and she was left with an ugly scar.

By the way, we never would have heard of this woman's story if an inquisitive news reporter in Winnipeg hadn't decided to look into why that city suddenly and quietly removed the locks from a bridge. It’s possible that other accidents involving locks on bridges have gone unreported. After all, reporters don’t hang around emergency rooms asking everyone who comes in what happened to them.

The ugly "blame the victim" comments that certain love lock advocates made to the online news story are also interesting — and disturbing.

The Winnipeg Free Press news story


Do A Simple Thought Experiment


"A good idea, and well worth the risks" — NOT!

If the locks were in some out-of-the-way spot where they could do little or no harm, things might be different. But they are on pedestrian bridge rails, and right next to a thoroughfare with lots of movement. People — including children — run and jog past them, or whizz by them on bicycles. And people, being people, make mistakes. They mistep, they trip, their bicycles skid, they tumble on their skateboards or rollerblades, they could be so focused on their smartphones that they don't notice where a free arm swings. Sometimes the bridge is covered with snow and ice, sometimes it's slick with rain.

People should be able to bump into the rails without hitting a bunch of gratuitous hazards wantonly added to the bridge by unnamed and negligent individuals and allowed to remain on the bridge by the recklessly callous leaders of the City of Norfolk. And the greater the number of locks, the greater the likelihood that someone will get hurt.

If you still believe the locks should remain on the bridge, ask yourself, Are they really worth the risk?


A mother and daughter biking on the bridge:


Joggers straying too close to the rails could get snagged, too:


See for Yourself

If you find it hard to imagine anyone getting injured by mere padlocks, go to the bridge, look at the rails bristling with locks (padlocks, bike locks, weird locks, chains, etc. — see photos below), watch people carefreely walking past them or zooming past them on bikes.

Think about what could happen if a bike skided or someone tripped, and not just if someone flew headlong into the locks, but if they merely grabbed at a lock-covered rail to catch themselves from falling. Keep in mind that, due to the design configuration of the rails, the locks are bunched at the upper body level of many young children, and riding into stationary objects is known to be one of the main kinds of accidents that happen to kids on bikes.

Most of the locks are bunched at about 32 inches above the bridge deck. Where does 32 inches fall on your body or your child's? And where at on your bodies if you fell into the locks or merely sideswiped them?




Photos of Some Nasty (as in hazardous) Locks

(Fortunately, concerned citizens have already removed most of the most hazardous locks.)

Rusty, serrated prongs jutting from the rails? What could possibly go wrong? Is this worth the risk of injury just so someone can memorialize "Tom loves Lisa"?


Long enough for some serious puncture wounds?


Don't get too touchy feely with this rusty heart-shaped snagger

(by the way, fake "heirloom" love locks — rust-free or pre-rusted — are available from online hucksters cashing in on the love lock craze):


Nor this one:



The Culpability of Our Leaders

The City of Norfolk will probably be able to quietly pay off anyone who receives a minor injury from the locks. Maybe it already has. After all, how often do you hear about someone tripping on one of Norfolk's many uneven sidewalks? — something that probably happens way more than we realize.

But a serious injury, like a child's face getting mangled by the locks or a kid even losing an eye, could lead to a lawsuit and would probably make the news. The parents of a grievously injured child would likely consider it their duty to go public about it to warn other parents about what can happen. Let's hope they would.

Read The City of Norfolk's Position


"The locks, attached to symbolize everlasting love or memorialize people who have died, aren't hurting anything," said City Spokesperson Lori Crouch.