Golden Gate Bridge Will Finally Get a Suicide Barrier

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
June 28 2014 12:40 PM

Golden Gate Bridge Will Finally Get a Suicide Barrier

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A container ship is seen passing under the Golden Gate Bridge*

Photo by KIMIHIRO HOSHINO/AFP/GettyImages

After decades of lobbying and campaigning, supporters of installing suicide nets in the Golden Gate Bridge celebrated Friday after a $76-million funding plan was approved to install steel-cable nets below the iconic San Francisco landmark. The bridge district’s board of directors unanimously voted in favor of the suicide nets. At least 1,600 people have killed themselves by jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge since 1937, including a record 46 last year alone, notes the Associated Press.

Although the funding was approved, it will still take about three years for the nets to be installed. The board voted for the nets out of five possible suicide barriers in 2008, which mostly consisted of fences or walls. Still, funding remained an obstacle. The idea of installing barriers “dates back almost five decades,” writes Holly Bailey on Yahoo News. “But over the years, the plan just languished, dismissed by board members who didn’t consider the suicides to be a crisis or their responsibility.” That slowly began to change recently. A key point in the journey was a 2003 The New Yorker piece that “was effectively the first national glimpse into the growing crisis,” notes Bailey. Several documentaries followed. But what likely helped leaders change their minds the most was hearing more and more stories from family members of those who killed themselves by jumping off the bridge.

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Officials hope the mere presence of the nets will deter jumpers. But if anybody does jump with the nets in place, he or she would “probably be injured but alive,” points out the San Francisco Chronicle. “The net, suspended from posts, will have a slightly upward slope, and will collapse a bit if someone lands in it, making it difficult for the jumper to climb out. The bridge district will deploy a retrieval device to pluck jumpers from the net.”

*Correction, June 30, 2014: Due to a photo provider error, the caption first identified the ship in the photograph as a tanker when it's a container ship.

Daniel Politi has been contributing to Slate since 2004 and wrote the "Today's Papers" column from 2006 to 2009. You can follow him on Twitter @dpoliti.

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