The tide has turned against opposition to a suicide barrier on the Golden Gate Bridge, according to the agency that oversees the iconic span.
Mental-health organizations have been advocating for a suicide barrier on the bridge for decades. More than 1,300 people are estimated to have committed suicide from the bridge since 1937, an average of nearly 20 people a year, or about one suicide every 2½ weeks.
Eve Meyer, director of San Francisco Suicide Prevention, said the majority of all suicides off the Golden Gate Bridge are impulsive acts that could be prevented.
“It’s a matter of the moment, and if you can get someone through that moment, the pain will move on,” Meyer told The Examiner last month.
Public discussions about a suicide barrier resumed recently when the Golden Gate Bridge, Highway and Transportation District began a seven-week public-comment period that included an online survey to gauge which of five options people preferred. The district also staged two public-comment hearings on the topic last month in San Francisco and San Rafael.
On July 22, 938 people had completed the survey, and of those, more than 75 percent said no barrier should be added to the bridge.
On Aug. 18 — one week before the end of public comment — 55 percent of the 3,008 respondents did not want a suicide barrier.
The newest numbers from the bridge district show the majority of 4,147 people who responded to the survey favor some type of barrier being added to the bridge.
The slim majority of the 4,147 responses — a scant 50.13 percent — was split between support for five different barrier options proposed by the bridge district, according to a report released by the district.
The five design options for the barrier include: Two proposals would extend the current 4-foot railing on the bridge up to 12 feet in height; two other plans would replace the railing with either a 10-foot barrier or a 12-foot barrier. The last proposal would hang nets 20 feet below and on the side of the bridge.
Of the five, a barrier with the vertical rods extending eight feet was the most popular, garnering 16.49 percent of the overall vote.
The second-most popular barrier was the netting proposal, with 15.19 percent. Nearly 49 percent of the 4,147 respondents said they would prefer nothing at all. All barrier proposals would cost between $40 million to $50 million to construct.
The bridge district compiled the results following a seven-week public comment period, which ended Monday. The district’s board of directors will be presented with a breakdown of the public comments in one of its two regularly scheduled meetings in October, said Denis Mulligan, chief engineer at the bridge. The board would likely vote on the proposal in late October or early November, Mulligan said.
The earliest possible start date for construction would be a year from October, depending on funding sources, which have still yet to be identified, said Mulligan.
A survey asked people which option they preferred for a suicide barrier on the Golden Gate Bridge.
49.87% preferred no barrier
16.49% preferred option 1A (Add vertical system to outside handrail)
15.19% preferred option 3 (Add net system that extends horizontally from bridge)
8.30% preferred option 1B (Add horizontal system to outside handrail)
6.15% preferred option 2A (Replace outside handrail with vertical system)
4.00% preferred option 2B (Replace outside handrail with horizontal system)
Source: Golden Gate Bridge, Highway and Transportation District
“As long as they can come up with a design that doesn’t
affect the look of the bridge … then I support it.”
Stuart Henderson, 49, San Francisco
“I think the netting below would probably be the best option. I believe suicide is usually the result of a brief moment passing through someone’s mind, and that people deserve a second chance on life.”