Workmen in Paris started pulling off hundreds of thousands of padlocks attached by lovers to the Pont des Arts bridge on Monday, afraid the sheer weight of the romantic tokens was putting the 19th-century structure at risk.

The pedestrian bridge has become a shrine for amorous tourists and Parisians alike, who seek to immortalise their love by leaving an initialled padlock attached to its metallic grid railings.

"It's the end of the padlocks," Paris deputy mayor Bruno Julliard said in a statement.

"They spoil the aesthetics of the bridge, are structurally bad for it and can cause accidents," he added, noting that at least one section of railing had already collapsed under the weight in a potential risk to shipping on the River Seine below.

He said the existing railings would be initially replaced with panels covered in street art and later this year by plexiglass.

A couple of tourists from Washington, D.C., turned up unaware of the padlock ban.

"We came with the idea of putting a lock but we found out it's closed and illegal now. So, we are just going to put it here at the very end of the bridge so no one can see," Cathy Hominage told Reuters TV.

France Love Locks

A Paris city employee removes a railing loaded with locks on the famed Pont des Arts bridge on Monday. (Remy de la Mauviniere/Associated Press)