8.7.08

A Suicide Barrier for the Golden Gate Bridge

A few months ago, I joined an organization called the Bridge Rail Foundation (http://www.bridgerail.org/). It's a group dedicated to raising the existing rail on the Golden Gate Bridge in an effort to stop the too many suicides on this bridge. This group is mostly made up of survivors of suicide (in suicidology terminoly those of us who have lost a loved one to suicide are called survivors.)
The official death toll is 1,300, many believe that this number is much, much higher. Too many people jump and no body is ever found. Last year's count was officially at 37 when I wrote to the Marin County Coroner to ask if my son Henry had been included in the count. No, he hadn't (because the San Francisco Medical Examiner doesn't count suicides from the bridge separately from other "falls" from tall buildings). So, now the count is officially at 38 with 2 other people missing and suspected to have jumped and disappeared.

The Golden Gate Bridge Authority released it's environmental impact report yesterday along with pictures of proposed new barriers.
I am copying and pasting the newsletter the Bridge Rail Foundation sent out which includes links to the report and links for people to sign petitions and leave comments. Unfortunately, it doesn't copy well - the pictures don't show up - but they are accessible in the link to the impact study.
It's a controversial subject around here, mostly because constructing a barrier is very expensive and it would obstruct the view. Of course, to some people a view is more important than a human life.

Anyway, if anybody reading this feels the way that I do - it's time to do something to stop the suicides on this bridge - please consider leaving comments in favor of one of the designs. Thank you!


Bridge Rail Foundation Newsletter
ContentsBridge District Releases Draft EIR for Suicide DeterrentHearing Dates Set—Speak OutA Few First ThoughtsFurther Reading
July 2008—EIR Special #1Vol 2 #5
Raise the Rail—Stop the SuicidesSpread the word—send this on to a friend-- Click here to send this to a friendClick here to subscribe

Bridge District Releases Draft EIR for Suicide Deterrent
The draft Environmental Impact Report on a suicide deterrent system for the Golden Gate Bridge was released today. The draft is now open for public review, and will be the subject of two public hearings set for later this month (see below). The public comment period will remain open for several weeks, then close while the district considers the comments and assembles a final EIR.Photos in this special edition newsletter represent the five options the GGB is considering. They were produced by the bridge district for the EIR
.Link to the GGB web site for the entire set of EIR documents.

Hearing Dates Set—The bridge district plans public hearings on its Draft EIR in July. Two hearings will be held as follows:#1 Marin—Tuesday, July 223:30pm to 7:30pmEmbassy Suites HotelMill Valley & Sausalito Conf. Rooms101 McInnis Parkway San Rafael, CA 94903#2 San Francisco—Wednesday, July 233:30pm to 7:30pmSan Francisco Ferry Building, Pier 1Port Commission Hearing Room2nd FloorSan Francisco, CA 94903

Speak OutThe public comment period is particularly important for advocates of raising the rail—we must make our voices heard and our presence known. Please take advantage of every opportunity to tell the District how important it is to finally put a stop to the deaths at the Gate:
Attend the hearings and speak out.
Write the district—both traditional letters and email will have an impact. For direct input to the district, Click Here

Get organizations you know and work with to endorse raising the rail and communicate that to GGB.
Sign the online petition sponsored by the Whitmer Family. To sign up, Click Here.

Start a letter writing campaign among friends and associates.

A Few First Thoughts
One option the EIR presents is to take no action at all—let the deaths continue. Obviously any response you pass on to the district should address rejecting this option outright.
Another option is a netting system under the bridge. Our concern here is that netting systems are hard to maintain, and could easily fall into disrepair (especially considering the District's ongoing budget deficit). In addition, the system itself could attract people who want to test it—think frat house initiation rites. Further, retrieving individuals from a netting system is an additional cost and may put emergency service personnel at risk. Simply building a taller railing avoids all these problems.
Each of the other four options presented for a taller railing should prevent suicides without creating an additional problem. One of these is likely the answer to the suicide problem.

Further Reading
There is a long, thoughtful article in last Sunday's New York Times Magazine. The article reviews recent information that upends the traditional view of suicide inevitability. It also demonstrates that most suicides are preventable and that most attempters, once stopped, will not subsequently kill themselves. There are also important references to the successful installation of taller railings on other bridges. Click here to link to the article

1 comment:

mjlayman said...

Okay, I voted for 1A first and 2A second. Here's what I put in the top comment box, not that they have one for functionality:

A net is hard to keep up and subject to the whims of the weather. Any of the other four is better, but I think the vertical system will work best, particularly if added to the outside handrail.

Too many people die by jumping off this bridge. New studies show that if people are kept from committing suicide, most of them go on to live normal lives. It's important to make that stop on this bridge.