San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge is an iconic California landmark — but it's also been associated with death. About 1,600 people have committed suicide by jumping off the famous bridge since its construction in 1937. Last year a record 46 people jumped to their death, with a further 118 failed attempts. (Via Wikimedia Commons / Octagon, IFC Films / "The Bridge")
But the bridge's grim reputation might be about to change. On Friday, bridge directors secured $73 million in state and federal funding to erect a suicide barrier around the Golden Gate Bridge.
Current plans call for a 20-foot-wide steel net to be placed 20 feet below the Golden Gate Bridge's pedestrian sidewalk on both sides, spanning all 1.7 miles of the bridge. (Via KMPH)
KGO notes plans for a suicide barrier at the Golden Gate Bridge have been in development for quite a while.
"The Bridge District hired a firm of architects to come up with designs for a suicide barrier. Here's their report — from 43 years ago."
But the project has faced stiff opposition from groups who argue building a barrier will damage the appearance of the bridge, and will just encourage would-be jumpers to commit suicide by other means. (Via KNTV)
Kevin Hines, who survived his own jump off of the bridge and has become one of the chief supporters of the suicide net project, telling KTVU saving the lives of would-be jumpers was more important than preserving the bridge's aesthetics.
"It's majestic, it's gorgeous, but it is a piece of iron. And these are lives, human lives of people who know not what they are doing at the time of their attempt, who are very ill."
And opposition to the barriers has withered in the face of numerous studies showing suicide barriers have decreased suicides in other parts of the world. A 2005 meta-analysis published in The Journal of the American Medical Association found "Where the method is common, restriction of means has led to lower overall suicide rates. ... These studies demonstrate the life-saving potential of restricting lethal means." (Via Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry)
The project is expected to take three years. It includes funding for making sure the new barriers can handle strong gusts of wind, as well as replacing maintenance scaffolding.