Nets could be best for stopping suicides

A steel net drooping 20 feet below the Golden Gate Bridge would have far less aesthetic impact — and be considerably cheaper — than other suicide barriers proposed for The City’s most iconic and lethal landmark, according to a draft environmental impact report unveiled Monday.

<p>The netting is one of five barrier concepts analyzed by the report; the others all involve a 10- to 12-foot tall steel railing, interspersed with tall clear panels, to prevent a person from jumping.

Though the idea of a suicide barrier has been toyed with since the bridge was built in 1937, it has repeatedly met opposition. Many argue that suicide is a societal issue and should not motivate major structural changes to a historic landmark.

A previous design for an 11-foot-high fence was rejected in 1999 as unsightly and possibly ineffective.

The report comes at a time when the bridge has grown increasingly lethal. While suicides have long averaged 20 to 22 a year, totaling about 1,250 since 1937, there were at least 34 in 2006 and 38 in 2007, according to the Marin County coroner’s office and Mary Currie, spokeswoman for the Golden Gate Bridge, Highway and Transportation District.

Currie said the district will take public feedback on the concepts and may decide whether to endorse a plan this fall. However, no one yet knows how the pricey plan might be funded.

The netting option carries a $40 million to $50 million price tag. It might require a special crane to pluck the jumper from the net, which would reduce bridge traffic by one lane and could take several hours, Currie said.

Two other options would add 8-foot barriers on top of the existing 4-foot railing. Two others, thatinvolve removing the existing railing and replacing it with a 10- or 12-foot railing, would impact the historic value of the bridge, the report said.

All of the railing options could cost $40 million to $50 million, and would adversely affect the view from the bridge, the report stated.

Paul Muller, board member of the Bridge Rail Foundation, a suicide-barrier advocacy organization, said prevention tactics are long overdue and would undoubtedly save lives.

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 said.

kworth@sfexaminer.com

Examiner staff writer Will Reisman contributed to this report.

Three suicide-prevention options

The draft environmental impact report on suicide barriers for the Golden Gate Bridge outlined variations of three concepts.

Steel net

» 20 feet below the bridge, 20 feet wide

» Requires special equipment to pluck jumpers out of the net

» Cost: $40 million to $50 million

Addition to the existing railing

» Adds 8 feet of vertical or horizontal rails to the 4-foot railing, interspersed with clear panels

» Adversely impacts view from the bridge

» Cost: $40 million to $50 million

Replacement of existing railing

» Replaces 4-foot railing with 10- or 12-foot vertical or horizontal rails, interspersed with clear panels

» Adversely impacts view from bridge, removes historic property

» Cost: $40 million to $50 million

Source: Golden Gate Bridge, Highway and Transportation District

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