the golden gate bridge barrierupdated: 11.16.23
the #1 u.s.a. suicide draw gets jump prevention.
|the suicide barrier debate|
Golden Gate Bridge Gets Suicide Net Approval,
After decades worth of engineering studies and heated debate, Golden Gate Bridge officials have voted to erect a suicide barrier on the bridge. The winning design is a stainless steel net that will be hung beneath the iconic bridge span.
The net will not obstruct the existing views from the bridge. It works by catching any would-be individuals who are feeling suicidal that try to jump.
The Golden Gate Transportation District’s board of directors voted 14-1 for the net option today. They considered several methods to stop people from jumping off the world-famous bridge, including fences. The board settled on the prevention net, which has an estimated cost between $40 to $50 million.
The net still requires additional permits, including an environmental review, before installation will begin. It is estimated that it will still be another 2 to 3 years before the net is installed.
Bridge official estimate that, on average, 20 people jump from the span every year. Thirty eight jumped last year and 19 have jumped so far this year. Once installed, it is expected that the net will prevent virtually all suicide attempts from the world-famous bridge.
now, try the whine:
10.10.08, psychcentral.com, Golden Gate Bridge To Get a Suicide Net, by John M. Grohol,
The Bridge’s board of directors has been under increasing pressure in recent years to do something more to prevent the numerous suicides that take place on the iconic span. Thirty eight people plummeted to their death last year from the bridge.
We’ve previously documented how a film was made capturing some of the suicides that take place on the Golden Gate Bridge. We expressed our frustration in July with the slow progress being made in erecting the barrier. We didn’t make any fans of some San Franciscans when we first blogged about this issue over two years ago in an entry entitled, What do San Franciscans Value? The View or Human Life?. With the use of the net, the hope is that the existing view can be maintained, while still saving lives.
But it’s still got a ways to go. The district has no money to pay for the net (apparently no one thought to begin looking at ways to fund the barrier two years ago when it was first considered). It will likely be at least two more years before the barrier is in place, assuming funds are found, environmental permits are received, and engineering studies are completed.
It’s taken two years and over 60 deaths to get to an approved suicide barrier plan for the bridge. Sadly, it’ll probably cost another 60 or so more human lives before the net actually is approved and constructed.
(this barrier net has an "estimated cost between $40 to $50 million" and like most every other government construction job, will no doubt be much closer to $100 million in delays, cost over runs, and corruption. tag on many thousands a year in maintenance the net will demand. the net will stop many suicides from the bridge, but it will never stop everyone that wants to end their life by jumping from the golden gate bridge. a net may catch the jumpers, but they will figure out a way around a net. then there is the very likelihood that anyone caught in the net and injured in any way, will sue and win large sums of money for having created a structure that injures people that jump into it. anyone caught in the net will also need to be rescued from it. the rescuers will also likely get injured doing their job and that too will result in lawsuits and disability issues. sorry, john, but your cute little net will not save everyone. those that are stopped may well find another way to check themselves out. you will never stop suicide and you should stop worrying so much about it. people have the right to die by their own hand and you need to let them make up their own minds. your bridge has about 20 suicides a year. it would take 50 years of bridge jumpers to equal the suicide rate of one single day of cigarette smokers. in this country alone, one thousand people a day extinguish their lives through all fault of their own with cigarettes. perhaps you should order up a barrier around a pack of smokes.) mr. grohol replies:
10.12.08, John M. Grohol, @phil - Nobody’s looking to stop suicides completely as that’s an unreasonable goal. Just to make it less easy to do so for people who make the decision "in the moment," as many bridge jumpers have been shown to do in research on this phenomenon. Fences and barriers of this nature simply work and the research proves it.
As for gov’t corruption, I guess we shouldn’t do any program that enhances social good for that very same reason. Heck, let’s stop building roads too, since those are the biggest death traps in the U.S., killing 40,000+ Americans each and every year.
There are many causes of preventable deaths in the U.S., including 100,000+ from medical mistakes in hospitals. But every neighborhood and community has to look at what makes sense for them. And for the Golden Gate Bridge, this is a no-brainer, easy way to prevent the vast majority of deaths each from the bridge. (we contend that it's not feasible to expend such a large sum for so few. there are many causes of preventable deaths in the u.s. and of course we should take all logical and concerted efforts to prevent them, but not so many millions for the so few that want to end their lives anyway, regardless if it's on impulse or not. the real no-brainer is to use the 'net' money for the greater good. you have an agenda and we applaud your effort, we just think it's misguided. here's an idea, use the 'net' money to buy nicotine gum for those that wish to quit smoking. the 'lives saved' return would be better than bridge jumpers saved. see, we too have an agenda and feel ours will save more lives for the dollar then yours will. you can reply if you wish, but we have made our points and will not bother you any more. good luck with your net.)
more about the bridge suicide barrier: ggb suicide barrier.org
11.14.23, nytimes.com, The Decades-Long Fight for a Suicide Barrier on the Golden Gate Bridge A conversation with John Branch about the $217 million project to install steel netting under California’s most famous bridge.
The Golden Gate Bridge has been one of the most photogenic structures in the world ever since it was built. The span, which connects San Francisco and Marin County, attracts tourists from all over the world who are delighted by its unusual orange-red color and the fog that always seems to be passing through its cables.
The bridge has also been a place of repeated tragedy. About 2,000 people are known to have jumped to their deaths from the bridge since it was completed in 1937, and since not all jumps are witnessed and not all bodies are found, the true tally is very likely to be higher.
My colleague John Branch wrote in The New York Times recently about the effort to install three and a half miles of stainless steel netting under the bridge as a “suicide deterrent system.” The system, which workers are nearly finished installing, has cost $217 million and took longer to build than the bridge itself did, John reports.
I spoke to John about his reporting and the decades-long fight by families of people who have jumped to get a barrier installed. Here’s our conversation, lightly edited.
The suicides on the Golden Gate are happening on one of the most iconic structures in the world, in one of the most well-known cities on the planet, but they remain pretty much under the radar. Why do you think that is?
A lot of reasons. One is that suicides on the bridge happen one at a time, and people rarely stop and add up the toll, in terms of numbers and heartache. For several decades, the suicides did warrant brief mentions in local newspapers, and there was a sort of countdown as the toll approached 500 (in 1973) and 1,000 (in 1995).
The crass attention around that last countdown, especially, got officials questioning whether the coverage was causing more copycat cases of suicide. Jumps have received less attention since. But from 2011 to 2020, the number of jumpers grew, to more than 30 per year, on average.
Families have been pushing for years for officials to do something. Why did it take so long to act?
In general, it’s a combination of two factors: the love for the bridge’s design, even of something as seemingly benign as the height of handrails; and a collective misperception, if not downright dismissiveness, about suicide.
Periodic pleas for more to be done — mainly, a higher railing — were routinely ignored, mostly because of aesthetics, cost and the questionable effectiveness of any proposed solution. That last one is related to our misunderstanding of suicide, which many had long considered to be someone else’s problem and an individual right.
That attitude shifted among decision makers in the early 2000s as family members coalesced to forcefully advocate for something more to be done. They brought humanity to the cause, and could not be ignored.
What was the most surprising thing you learned?
Most surprising is how many people I’ve found who have been touched by a Golden Gate Bridge suicide; if you don’t know someone directly, you know someone who knows someone. I told a good friend that I was working on this story, and he told me something he hadn’t before: He was across the bridge when the car in front of him stopped suddenly, and a man got out and leaped over the rail.
I was surprised at the unknown toll for people like that. We think of family members and friends left behind. But since these suicides have happened in a public place, usually during daylight, there are countless people who have witnessed a jump — driving across the bridge, walking on the sidewalk, sailing in the water below.
Most bridge employees, like painters and ironworkers, have witnessed them. I think of the officers and passers-by who try to stop people, and the Coast Guard members who have pulled bodies from the water. One four-second jump can haunt many, many lifetimes.
If you are having thoughts of suicide, call or text 988 to reach the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline or go to SpeakingOfSuicide.com/resources for a list of additional resources.
11.06.23, pressdemocrat.com, SAN FRANCISCO — It was May 27, 1937, the opening day for a stunning new suspension bridge across a gap in the California coastline known as the Golden Gate. Before cars were allowed on the crossing, an estimated 200,000 people celebrated between the bridge’s 4-foot-high rails, more than 200 feet above the water.
Doris Madden, 11, was there with her parents. It was one of her favorite days of her childhood, a story she told until the end of her life.
About 78 years later, in 2015, Madden’s 15-year-old grandson, Jesse Madden-Fong, was dropped off at his high school in San Francisco.
Jesse did not go to class. An hour later, he was on the Golden Gate Bridge, walking alone. The family was told that Jesse had shrugged off his backpack and went over the rail. He left no explanation, no clues, for why he had jumped.
Jesse’s mother confirmed her son’s identity with the coroner through the boy’s new corduroy pants.
"My mother loved the bridge," said Pat Madden, Jesse’s mother and Doris’ daughter. "I’m really glad she passed away two years before Jesse."
His was one of 33 confirmed suicides from the bridge that year, a typical number.
For nearly 87 years, it was so easy.
‘It’s about damn time’
The Golden Gate Bridge is a rare blend of form and function. It stands as one of the world’s engineering marvels and a symbol of Depression-era American muscle.
Connecting a sophisticated city and an untamed beyond, it is less a gate than an aperture. Everyone views something different through it.
Some see endless possibilities. Some just see the end.
About 2,000 people are known to have died by jumping off the bridge. The count has never been precise, and the true tally is certainly higher since not all jumps are witnessed and not all bodies are found.
Such tragedies, officials hope, are mostly in the past. Workers are nearly finished installing 3 1/2 miles of stainless steel nets — creating what officials call a "suicide deterrent system" — strung on both sides of the bridge, end to end.
Construction cost $217 million and the system has taken longer to build than the bridge itself did.
The nets are nearly invisible from a distance, blending into the steelwork.
But they are visible to anyone standing at the rail. They hang about 20 feet down and stretch about 20 feet out. They are stitched between 369 new struts, 50 feet apart, painted International Orange like the rest of the bridge.
These are not the soft, springy nets of a circus act. They are taut, marine-grade stainless steel nets meant to withstand the Golden Gate’s combination of rain, wind, salt and fog.
"We want the message to be that it’s going to hurt, and also jumping off the bridge is illegal," said Denis Mulligan, the general manager of the organization that oversees the bridge.
The nets have already shown themselves to be a deterrent, but not a perfect solution.
Several people have jumped into them. Some have been rescued from there, but "a handful" had "jumped into the net and then jumped to their death," Mulligan said.
He declined to say how many. It will take a year or two of data to fully understand the system’s effectiveness, he said.
In the decade beginning in 2011, bridge officials said, there were 335 confirmed suicides, or an average of 33.5 per year. In 2022, as the first nets were being strung, there were 22. Through October this year, as more nets have been added, there were 13.
The completion of the system, and the focused two-decade drive to get it done after decades of failed campaigns, has produced a range of emotions.
— "Part of me is just exhausted that it took this long," said Paul Muller, president and co-founder the Bridge Rail Foundation, a nonprofit founded in 2006 with a mission of ending suicides at the bridge.
— "I’m glad I’m still alive to see it," said Dr. Mel Blaustein, a San Francisco psychiatrist who helped push the mission to build a barrier 20 years ago, when he was in his 60s.
— "I’m excited — it will be a good tool to have," said Lt. Michael Bailey of the Bridge Patrol, which uses surveillance to spot potential jumpers.
— "It’s about damn time," said Ken Holmes, the former coroner in Marin County, across the bridge from San Francisco, whose office was responsible for examining the recovered bodies of jumpers.
— "I am relieved," said Pat Madden, the mother of Jesse. "You just want to spare other people from what you’re going through."
A low railing
The first confirmed suicide from the Golden Gate Bridge happened about 10 weeks after its opening. Harold Wobber, a 47-year-old World War I veteran, reportedly said, "This is as far as I go," and jumped.
More followed — dozens a year, hundreds a decade. The unique majesty that draws tourists from all over the world made the bridge a premier destination for death.
Among reasons that someone looking to jump might choose the bridge is a near guarantee of death (about 1 in 50 have survived) and a belief that loved ones will be spared the horror of discovering the body.
But there was always something more practical: The railing is just 4 feet high.
Almost anyone could get over it, whether after long consideration or in a moment of impulse.
"Fundamental to suicide prevention is restricting easy access to lethal means," said Muller. "And the Golden Gate Bridge has provided easy access."
Bridge lore has it that the original design called for the railing to be 5 1/2 feet tall. Mulligan, the bridge general manager who spent a decade as its top engineer, said that he had never discovered such plans. But the California Highway Patrol first asked for a higher railing in 1939 to deter jumpers.
That it took so much time and heartache to seriously address the issue is a source of great debate and consternation.
Those in charge of most famous tall structures moved quickly to keep people from jumping from them, often after a few deaths.
Not at the Golden Gate Bridge. Jumping off the bridge was always an option, even a dark joke.
"I grew up in San Francisco," Mulligan said. "I grew up hearing people say, ‘Well, why don’t you just go jump off the bridge?’ That was what people said. They obviously didn’t understand suicide or mental health."
Such nonchalance was reflected in the 19-member board of directors for the Golden Gate Bridge, Highway and Transportation District, which oversees the operation of the bridge and a regional bus and ferry system.
For decades, decision makers ducked behind concerns over aesthetics, costs and effectiveness.
Clouding serious consideration were long-held misperceptions about suicide — mainly, that people prevented from jumping from the bridge would simply take their lives a different way.
A 1978 study by Richard Seiden, at the University of California, Berkeley, tracked 515 people who, between 1937 and 1971, had gone to the bridge intending to jump and had been persuaded not to. It found that 94% were still alive or had died of natural causes.
"Suicidal behavior is crisis-oriented and acute in nature," Seiden concluded.
The Bridge Patrol is on the front lines of those crises. Created as an antiterrorism force after the Sept. 11 attacks, officers spend much of their energy preventing suicides. Using surveillance and roving patrols, and often assisted by others doing work on the bridge, they try to spot the potential jumpers among millions of bridge visitors every year.
A planned jump is stopped every other day, on average, bridge officials said.
Bailey, a 14-year patrol veteran, does not count the lives he saves, because then he would have to count the jumps he witnessed and could not stop.
"It’s hard not to let it affect you," he said. "We’re all humans out here, with normal feelings like anybody else."
A movement takes shape
True momentum for the effort came in the early 2000s. A 2003 New Yorker story by Tad Friend, titled "Jumpers," cast a bright light on the bridge’s dark history. The San Francisco Chronicle followed in 2005 with an unblinking, weeklong series called "Lethal Beauty."
There were documentaries, including "The Bridge" in 2006, that controversially showed people plummeting into the water.
That same year, a man named David Hull turned his grief into a mission, cofounding the Bridge Rail Foundation. Hull’s 26-year-old daughter had driven two hours from Santa Cruz to jump from the bridge.
The Bridge Rail Foundation organized other families in a common effort. It wrote op-eds and monthly newsletters. It made short films to spread on social media.
Mostly, the group focused not on cold data, but on the warmth of humanity and empathy.
In 2005, finally moved, the bridge board agreed to build a barrier if the money came from outside sources. So began the slow churn of American bureaucracy.
There were environmental studies and engineering tests to ensure that the bridge could withstand any structural changes.
After all the talk of raising the rails, along came an idea borrowed from a successful suicide prevention system at a tall cathedral in Bern, Switzerland.
The nets were a compromise. To appease opponents who thought that high rails or fencing would mar the bridge’s iconic look or block the views for everyone else, nets became the chosen prevention method in 2008.
Then began years of political wrangling for money. By 2014, with an estimated cost of $76 million for the project, money was committed. There was a call for construction bids. Estimates came in much higher than expected and soon rose again, toward $200 million.
Hopes ebbed and flowed. More families joined the push. More money was found.
"Every month it was delayed, more people were lost," Madden said.
The nets were expected to take four years to complete. It will be nearly seven. The bridge district is embroiled in legal squabbles with the contractor.
But they are nearly finished, and emotions are mixed. Exhaustion. Satisfaction. Peace.
"On the one hand, it’s been 20 years for me," said Muller. "On the other hand, it’s been 87. Which is staggering."
If you are having thoughts of suicide, call or text 988 to reach the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline or go to SpeakingOfSuicide.com/resources for a list of additional resources.
05.10.23: statnews.com, the tragedy of the bridge’s $400 million anti-suicide net.
08.28.22: marinij.com, GGB to build training facility for suicide net rescues.
03.27.22: americanthinker.com, barrier is nanny-state government writ large.
03.26.22: marinij.com, suicide barrier cost to rise by $2.3m.
05.18.19: kcbsradio.radio.com, Golden Gate Bridge suicide net is being built.
02.17.19: mercurynews.com, suicide barrier starting to take shape.
08.15.18: fortune.com, suicide net quietly being added. why it's so controversial.
01.21.18: marinij.com, Golden Gate Bridge reports spike in suicide deterrence.
12.24.17: sf.curbed.com, volunteers needed to guard against bridge tragedy for christmas.
04.14.17: cbsnews.com, Golden Gate suicide barriers going up after 1,500 deaths.
03.02.17: mercurynews.com, Golden Gate suicide barrier completion date set.
01.26.17: sfgate.com, Building suicide-prevention net to take 4 years.
12.15.16: marinij.com, bridge suicide barrier construction to start in 2017.
10.04.16: archinect.com, bridge needs additional $124,000,000 to build suicide barrier.
02.20.16: marinij.com, golden gate bridge suicide barrier delayed two months.
12.20.14: mercurynews.com, final design golden gate bridge suicide barrier complete
10.24.14: bloomberg.com, managers weigh fee for pedestrians to help pay for jumper nets.
06.09.14: dailymail.co.uk, grandson of ggb suicide barrier pioneer leaps to his death off ggb.
05.23.14: abc7news.com, Bridge suicide nets: Worst red tape in California history?
03.16.14: dailymail.co.uk, officials close to approving $66m safety net under bridge.
02.26.14: nbcnews.com, Golden Gate Bridge Hit Milestone in 2013 with 46 Suicides.
10.15.13: slate.com, A simple fix to the Golden Gate Bridge would save hundreds of lives.
10.12.13: sfgate.com, Suicide barriers back in spotlight with Calif. law.
09.29.13: latimes.com, The suicide magnet that is the Golden Gate Bridge.
05.25.12: latimes.com, The Golden Gate Bridge's fatal flaw.
jumpers: the fatal grandeur of the golden gate bridge, by tad friend.
10.11.08: latimes.com, golden gate to get suicide net.
2005: LETHAL BEAUTY. parts: 1 • 2 • 3 • 4 • 5 • 6 • 7
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