Our favorite San Fran selfie spot is about to see big changes, after officials for the Golden Gate Bridge approved funding for a suicide barrier made of giant steel nets. Although some of the money still needs extra approval, the board voted unanimously to spend $76 million on the project, the final step in installing the suicide-deterrent — which, considering the bridge is one of the most popular suicide sites in the world, is deeply needed.
In spite of its awe-inspiringly beautiful views, the Golden Gate bridge seems to have depressing pull for those wishing to end their lives. Over the last 77 years that the bridge has been open, 1,600 people are estimated to have killed themselves by jumping off of it, averaging around 31-35 suicides since 2011. Last year alone saw a record 46 suicides, the San Fransisco Chronicle reports. All that is excluding the almost-suicides; another 80 people who are on the brink of jumping get pulled off the Golden Gate each year.
Compare those numbers to New York's bridge-of-choice for jumpers: the George Washington Bridge. Roughly six people commit suicide every year by leaping off the George Washington, although that number went up to 13 in 2010, and 18 in 2012. Still, that's a small number compared to those who go take the 220 foot plunge from the Golden Gate.
So it's not surprising that a suicide barrier has been in the works for decades now. According to the AP, the bridge's board voted to put in a steel net as long ago as six years, choosing not to go for 10- to 12-foot barriers that might impact the view. The nets, which will be installed two stories below the bridge's walkway, will be made of thick stainless steel cables and be stretched roughly 20 feet wide.
"The tragedy of today is that we can't go back in time, we can't save ... the people who jumped off the bridge. But the good thing, with this vote today, we can vote in their memory," board member Janet Reilly said to the press. "We will save many lives who have followed in their footsteps and that's what so extraordinary about today."
Various sources, from studies to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, suggest that bridge barriers are actually an incredibly powerful deterrent when it comes to jumpers. The Chronicle reports that the number of suicides dropped significantly at the Ellington Street Bridge in Washington, D.C., going down to only one in the five years since the barrier's been put in place. from 25 in seven years to one in the five years after a barrier was erected.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi praised the decision, saying in a statement Friday:
The Golden Gate Bridge is a source of immense pride to San Francisco, but for too many families in our community, it has also been a place of pain. A suicide prevention barrier offers a critical second chance for troubled men and women acting on often impulsive suicidal thoughts. Together, we can ensure this magnificent landmark stands as a faithful companion for all San Franciscans, awing and inspiring visitors for generations to come.