LOCKPORT — Lynne Hicks used to find comfort in the lock she had fastened to the fencing along the Pine Street bridge.
The Lockport woman left the lock at the exact spot where her first serious boyfriend, Shawn Perry, had fallen to his death Feb. 12, 1989, after a night of drinking. She said it took her years to move past the trauma of suddenly losing her first love.
“Even though it’s been 30 years, it’s something you’ll never forget or get over," Hicks said.
The lock, on which she'd inscribed a message to Perry, felt like a memorial to her long lost love.
"I felt content that I could put something where he had died," she said. "It made me feel closer to him."
But about two weeks ago, Hicks realized her lock was gone, as were the dozens of others that had been fastened to the Pine Street bridge.
“I feel like it was a punch in the gut. I felt like I lost him all over again," Hicks said. "It made me smile every time I went past him.”
A Department of Transportation spokesman later appeared to confirm the locks' removal.
"The New York State Department of Transportation regularly removes unauthorized items — including locks and other items that pose potential safety hazards to motorists, pedestrians and boats passing below — from its bridges,"said agency spokesman Glenn Blain.
Since the early 2000s, so-called love locks have become ubiquitous on bridges across the developed world, especially in popular European tourist destinations, such as Paris and Venice. Typically, the lovers will write their initials, a message or the date on the lock, fasten it to the bridge and throw away the key — to symbolize forever or unbreakable love.
Others, such as Hicks, leave locks to commemorate lost loved ones.
But as the practice has grown increasingly popular, many municipalities and government agencies are finding the locks to be a growing nuisance.
In June 2015, Paris had to remove thousands of love locks from the Pont Des Arts, a pedestrian bridge near the Louvre Palace, as the literal weight of so many couples' love threatened to collapse the iconic bridge.
Paris has since installed new railings to make the Pont Des Arts and other bridges over the Seine lock-proof. Other cities have taken more extreme measures — the cities of Berlin and Venice have reportedly banned locks and threatened to fine couples caught attaching them.
The dozens of locks on Lockport's bridges pale compared to those larger, tourism-heavy cities, where the sides of many bridges had become solid walls of love locks.
But the DOT remains concerned the locks could threaten pedestrians, motorists or boats underneath. The agency prohibits locks and other "unauthorized" items from its bridges.
Hicks found those concerns to be "ridiculous."
"Really, they’re going to come unlocked?” she said.
The locks removed from the Pine Street bridge can be picked up at the DOT's facility at 5055 Lockport Junction Road. The locks on the city's Big Bridge have not been removed.