The peninsula weighs in on bridge barrier

July 23, 2008 12:10:46 AM PDT
There was a chance for the public to voice their opinion on suicide barriers for the Golden Gate Bridge. It's the first of two public meetings. While some see the proposed barriers as a life saving necessity, many think the bridge should be left alone.

About 20 people commit suicide off the bridge every year, but a barrier could reduce that number dramatically.

The unobstructed views for pedestrians on the Golden Gate Bridge, could be a thing of the past. Among the proposed changes are suicide barriers that run either vertically or horizontally.

"This is something where people fly thousands of miles, for people to come and have this experience. And to put up these visual barriers, I think would just be tragic," said Valerie Taylor, a San Rafael resident.

Taylor was among the dozens of people who attended the Golden Gate Bridge District's first public meeting on the proposed suicide barriers. At the meeting, anyone could ask bridge officials questions about each plan, learn more about each design, and input their preferences.

Among all the proposed suicide barriers, the net option appears to be the most popular with the public. It would hang 20 feet below the sidewalk, and extend 20 feet out. However Kevin Hines, one of 29 people who survived a suicide attempt off the bridge, doesn't think a net system is good idea.

"If you look at it, they see a rail, the people who want to die, and they're stopped from jumping, it's a lot better than attempting and falling in a net and having the trauma of falling 20 feet into a net. It doesn't make sense," said Hines.

A lot of people, however, say adding a barrier is what doesn't make sense. As of this morning, the Golden Gate Bridge District received 938 responses. Of those, 75 percent say the bridge should be left alone.

Clark Hinderleider of clinicians-scientists for the public weal couldn't agree more.

"What does the bridge have to do with mental health care or public health care? It has absolutely nothing to do with it. Why should they be forced to take the role of a parent or a mental health care provider," said Hinderleider.

The proposed suicide barriers would cost $40 to $50 million dollars. Had any one of them been in place before January of this year, 17-year-old Casey Brooks may still be alive today. That's according to her father.

"The unfortunate thing is that the bridge is there, it's easy to get to. It's just like having a loaded gun," said John Brooks, Casey's father.

The Bridge District held a public meeting Wednesday afternoon in San Francisco at the Ferry Building from 3:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.

The Golden Gate Bridge District could make a decision as early as October.


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