San Franciscans Try Again to Suicide-Proof the Golden Gate Bridge – New York Times (free reg. req’d)

It enrages me that the Golden Gate Bridge has no barrier to stop people from committing suicide. 69 years after the bridge was built, and a conservative estimate of 1200 people have died while jumping off of it, the people in charge of the bridge are still debating what type of fence to install (or whether to install one at all) to help try and reduce this number significantly.

Suicide barriers are commonplace since the late 1960’s and 1970’s on nearly every public monument, bridge, and other place where people have shown a consistent pattern of behavior of using the place to take their own lives. Most city councils and state governments have had this debate decades ago and erred on the side of public safety and the value and sanctity of human life.

But not San Francisco.

In a world where everything is just a little different from the values of the rest of the country, the city apparently believes that an unobstructed tourist view is more important than human life.

I say unobstructed because the type of iron-wrought-like fence used for most suicide barriers is simple, effective, and keeps the view largely as is. I say “tourist” because by and large, the vast majority of bridge pedestrians are tourists, not locals. Those who drive on the bridge in their cars rarely glance at the view anyways, unless their sitting at the backed up tolls.

That there are even opponents (and doctors, at that!) to something that will help reduce human suffering and the amount of human carnage caused by the bridge speaks volumes about how wacky some people’s values are.

Opponents argue that a suicide barrier’s unsightly railings, nets, or some combination thereof would mar the beauty of an Art Deco design marvel. Moreover, antibarrier forces say, would-be jumpers prevented from hurling themselves off the Golden Gate would simply find another location, like the Bay Bridge, which is nearby.

The opponents also point out that only about 3 percent of all people who commit suicide in the Bay Area do so by leaping from the Golden Gate.

Clark D. Hinderleider, a cardiac surgeon who lives in Marin County, across the bridge from San Francisco, has been outspoken in his opposition to the barrier.

“No one has ever shown any statistic how this would impact the general trend of suicides in the metropolitan area,” Dr. Hinderleider said, adding that the only way to truly stop suicides at the Golden Gate would be by “preventing people from going on the bridge.”

Excuse me? There are hundreds of bridges throughout the United States that have suicide barriers — otherwise known as a higher fence. If your goal is to reduce suicides (stopping them 100% seems a goal better suited for a fantasy, ideal world), a simple tall fence (which can be architecturally similar to any well-designed suicide barrier, such as those found on the Eiffel Tower and the Empire State Building), will work.

That a doctor could even argue, with a straight face, that this would somehow ruin the bridge is sad to me. It shows the short-sightedness of some people, that these people’s lives aren’t worth the cost of an unobstructed view.

Cost. Right… How much is a person’s life worth? Apparently less than $15 million to $25 million:

The cost of a barrier is estimated at $15 million to $25 million, money that barrier opponents say could be better spent elsewhere.

It’s a sad day for the people of San Francisco that they remain so behind the times in a supposedly liberal city.

San Francisco — Put the suicide barrier in place and help save people’s lives. Not 10 years from now, but get it started today.