The magnificent Golden gate bridge, for all its beauty, or maybe because of it, has always attracted those poor souls who saw no point in going on and decided they might as well make their exit spectacular. Almost two dozen people a year are reported to end their lives by jumping off the bridge which spans the San Francisco bay. Although official figures aren’t published, in order to not encourage potential jumpers, it’s estimated that roughly 1,300 unfortunate people plummeted to their deaths 200 feet below the bridge.
After decades of debate, the Golden Gate Bridge board of directors voted 14-to-1 on Friday to install safety netting 20 feet below the bridge’s deck. The net, made of metal wiring coated with plastic, will catch any jumpers and allow rescue teams to easily untangle them due to its design, which makes it partially collapse around anyone who jumped into it, according to Denis Mulligan, chief engineer for the Golden Gate Bridge, Highway and Transportation District, the authority which oversees the structure.
The rope, which is the preferred solution out of five proposed suicide barriers, has the lowest maintenance cost of the five, and is considered the safest for bridge workers. Before it is installed however, it must pass a final environmental review, especially concerned with how the netting might affect pelicans and cormorants flying by. The engineering and design must be completed, and a contractor hired. The financing is also an issue, considering its projected cost of $40 to $50 million. This means that all-in-all it may take several years before the 3.4 miles of netting are installed, said bridge district spokeswoman Mary Currie, who remarked that “Our next big challenge is to come up with the money.”
Despite the potential stops, supporters of the suicide net have hailed the long-awaited decision. Net lobbyist Dr. Mel Blaustein, president of the Psychiatric Foundation of Northern California commented on the move: “This is a red-letter day in the history of San Francisco,” he said, and said that the Golden Gate Bridge “[is] a suicide magnet. And sometimes all [suicidal people] need is a certain amount of time to stop and reflect and change their mind.”
Similar measures have been installed with some success on high structures at several sites in Europe, including a cathedral in Bern, Switzerland.
The Friday vote came a bit ahead of time as the meeting was supposed to be held to review public comments on the suicide barrier idea and consider preliminary environmental studies. The barrier issue received roughly 5,900 comments by 3,500 people and organizations and an online poll was held, on which 4,000 people voted, almost evenly split between building a barrier and leaving the bridge intact. Tom Ammiano, bridge director and San Francisco supervisor pressed for the vote to be held early after hearing speakers go on for an hour and a half about the high human toll of suicide and the need for the barrier.
“I want the kind of testimony we heard today to stop,” he said. “I don’t want to hear it again, and I don’t want future boards to have to hear it. It’s time to make a decision.”
Although it remains a controversial decision with the public, the board of directors stated that it was the morally correct thing to do. – eflux
The net should funnel jumpers into a long slide which lands them in a padded room in an underground mental health hospital.