Sunday, June 29, 2014

Golden Gate Bridge -- Eventual Suicide Relief

Above is one view of San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge.  What you see are some of the many, many tourists who cross the bridge on a pedestrian walkway each day, looking as they go at the beautiful city and the San Francisco Bay. 

If you take this walk and you are unlucky, you may see more than you want -- someone climbing over the 4-foot-high rail abutting the walkway and pitching himself or herself into the waters below.

This has happened at least 1,600 times since the bridge opened in 1937.

Finally, last Saturday, the board of the bridge authority decided to do something about the suicides.  In a unanimous vote, members approved local spending that, coupled with federal and other funds, will allow the placement of strong metal nets outside and underneath the railings to catch people and stop them from the long drop into the bay, which causes broken bones, massive internal injuries and, almost always, a painful death.  

I discussed the situation at greater length in an earlier post -- "Fixing America's Favorite Suicide Destination?," March 16, 2014 -- and so will not repeat myself here except to say that it amazes me that coming to the decision took so long.  

The design for the nets was approved in 2008 (over other submitted proposals that would have raised the railings, which people feared might block the views.)  

Arranging the funding has taken more than five years, during which period 250 or more people have jumped to their deaths.  Construction of the nets is expected to be finished in 2017 or 2018.

The Golden Gate was built in four years in the 1930s, a period when engineers worked with slide rules and did calculations with pencils and paper.  The construction project required emplacement of huge footings in bedrock under the bay, construction of enormous towers to hold the massive suspension cables, ordering and assembling the steel roadway underlayment and railings, welding all the parts together, stringing the cables a distance of 1.7 miles and paving the bridge, as well as building roads to meet it at both ends. 

Now, in a theoretically more advanced period of design and manufacturing, it is going to take almost as long to get metal nets attached to the side of the bridge as it took to build the entire structure itself.

I am pleased it is happening, finally, but distressed at the seeming lack of urgency.

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