Love locks for Satok Suspension Bridge?

Love is the master key that opens the gates of happiness.

—  Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr., American physician

The newly restored Satok Suspension Bridge was in the news recently after images of the first love lock on it being removed went viral on social media.

The bridge, originally constructed in 1923, collapsed in 2004 and had just been restored.

It is unknown who had put the padlock there and who removed it. Kuching North City Commission (DBKU) mayor Datuk Junaidi Reduan, when contacted recently, said his enforcement team did not remove the love padlock.

He explained that DBKU had no authority over the bridge yet as it was still under the control of the Public Works Department and was expected to be handed over to the commission in the near future.

During difficult and challenging times like this pandemic, all of us need lighthearted stories to cheer us up and what can be more appealing to young and old hearts than a story about a love lock and old but newly restored bridge?

Minister of Tourism, Arts and Culture Datuk Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah said he had no issue about lovers placing their locks on the bridge.

“But they must not spoil the aesthetic value of the bridge,” he added, pointing out that the bridge was constructed for the people to walk on and take in the breathtaking views of the famous Sarawak River.

He advised the public to enjoy the walk and scenery on the bridge and to take lots of pictures for memory.

“Please do not vandalise the bridge. It is our bridge and we must take good care of it,” he said.

Abdul Karim added that in Japan, there was a specific movable structure for lovers to place their locks and take pictures.

“This can be considered at this bridge but it must not be permanent because some locks can get rusty. If too many are placed there, they can become a nuisance to others.”

He promised his ministry would look into the matter and see how it could “make everyone happy.”

If you are wondering what is a love lock or love padlock, well, it is a padlock that lovers lock to a bridge, fence, gate, etc, to symbolise their love. Usually, the lovers’ names or initials and maybe the date are inscribed and the padlock and the key are thrown away into a nearby river to symbolise eternal or unbreakable love.

Do you know that there are 20 love lock bridges around the world and the most famous is the historic Pont des Arts over River Seine in Paris. On June 1, 2015, all the locks were taken down because bridge was in danger of collapsing from their weight.

It was reported that 7,500 kilos of locks were being added every year. The locks were so heavy they caused one side of the fence on the bridge to fall off.

Although there were notices warning people to stop attaching the love locks, lovers continued to leave tokens of their love and eventually the bridge railing had to be replaced with glass panels.

The City of Paris was reported to be in uproar when the famous love locks were taken down.

On May 20, 2015, council authorities in Melbourne, Australia began removing love locks from Southgate footbridge due to safety concerns. Around 22,000 love locks were reported to have been fixed to the railings and their combined weights had caused the cable to sag.

It is not known when the history of attaching love locks on bridges began in the world. It is said that the ritual on Pont des Arts over River Seine in Paris started only in 2008.

However, since the 2000s, love locks have multiplied at many locations throughout the world. Most municipal authorities consider them as litter or vandalism and there is some cost to their removal. However, some authorities welcome them and use them as fundraising projects or tourist attractions.

So will DBKU or for that matter, the Tourism, Arts and Culture Ministry in Sarawak, turn the Satok Suspension Bridge into a love lock bridge?

After the first love lock on the bridge was removed recently by unknown persons, will copycats follow suit just for cheap publicity?

If you are in love, do you need a lock to symbolise your love? Do you have to lock your love padlock on a bridge? Not necessarily, I think.

Take for example, Jonathan Montagu a biochemist and younger half-brother of Lord Montagu of Beaulieu, and Nathalie Daoust, award-winning photographer Nathalie Daoust, Canadian photographer and contemporary artist, To celebrate their meeting
in Japan, they commissioned artist Clare Grotefeld to design and create a giant bonsai love lock tree for their wedding on October 4, 2014. The tree is located at Beaulieu Palace House, United Kingdom, where couples are invited to help the tree flourish by adding their own love locks.

If you are in Kuching and looking for a place to place your love lock, how about creating your own love lock tree in your own house or garden? That way, you can be sure it will not be at risk of being cut off by city or community officials.