Golden Gate Bridge suicide barrier: $76m funding approved for 'safety net'

Bridge district's board of directors voted unanimously in favour of the funding for a steel suicide net

San Francisco

Like the Eiffel Tower in Paris or the Empire State Building in New York, San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge is recognised worldwide. Yet the celebrated Art Deco span also enjoys a darker reputation, as the place that has more suicides than any other in the world. And campaigners say this is because it is the only major man-made landmark without a suicide- prevention barrier.

That dubious distinction is at last due to be eliminated, after the bridge’s board of directors voted on Friday in favour of funding a $76m (£45m) safety net, to be installed 20 feet beneath both sides of the bridge walkway. The project will take several years to complete and, for its supporters, it cannot come soon enough. In 2013, a record 46 people leapt to their deaths from the bridge; a further 118 were talked back from the brink.

Captain Lisa Locati, who is in charge of security at the bridge, says that there have been 78 attempted suicides so far in 2014 and 18 suicides, most recently last Tuesday. The rising numbers reflect a similar trend across the US, where more people now kill themselves each year than die in road traffic accidents. Among those who have recently taken their own lives at the bridge was Sean Moylan, the 27-year-old grandson of John Moylan, a member of the bridge board and long-time supporter of the proposed deterrent.

An artist's impression shows the proposed netting An artist's impression shows the proposed netting

The funding for the safety net will come from sources including the federal and state governments, but $20m of the total will be come from the bridge’s own toll dollars.

Close to two miles long and more than 220 feet above the water of San Francisco Bay, the Golden Gate Bridge recorded its first suicide three months after opening in 1937.

Many of those who come to jump do so because they believe it is a quick, clean and effective means of committing suicide. Only 32 people are known to have leapt from the bridge and survived.

During a news conference before the vote, one of the few people who had survived a suicide attempt off the bridge rejected the argument that those who were suicidal would find another way if safety nets were installed. Kevin Hines, 32, said he felt “instant regret” when he jumped.

Until now, Captain Locati has been responsible for suicide prevention at the bridge. Her 31 uniformed officers and civilian staff, including ironworkers and painters, are all given regular training in how to identify, approach and engage potentially suicidal people.

Crisis counselling is offered to people thinking of jumping Crisis counselling is offered to people thinking of jumping

“The hardest part of our job is to start a conversation with someone who has [suicide] in mind,” Captain Locati told The Independent on Sunday. “They become very focused, very closed.”

Critics of the safety net argued that it would cost too much, be ineffective, as other means would be found, and damage the bridge’s famed aesthetics.

For the victims’ families, the prominence of the bridge in the landscape and in the public imagination  makes their grief that much more difficult to navigate.

John Bateson, author of The Final Leap, a 2012 book about the incidence of suicide at the bridge, has observed that some suicidal people will copy the actions of others when they read stories of their deaths.

Most jumpers suffer a grisly death, with massive internal injuries Most jumpers suffer a grisly death, with massive internal injuries

“The Golden Gate Bridge, by virtue of its prominence and beauty, has developed a greater allure,” he says. Of those who have survived a fall from the bridge,  “almost all said, as soon as they went over the side, they knew they wanted to live”.

He foresees a more positive image for the bridge: “The day it gets a barrier it will become a monument to compassion as well as to beauty.”

Arts and Entertainment
books
Voices
Caustic she may be, but Joan Rivers is a feminist hero, whether she likes it or not
voicesShe's an inspiration, whether she likes it or not, says Ellen E Jones
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor and the Dalek meet
tvReview: Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Sport
Diego Costa
footballEverton 3 Chelsea 6: Diego Costa double has manager purring
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Life and Style
3D printed bump keys can access almost any lock
techSoftware needs photo of lock and not much more
Arts and Entertainment
The 'three chords and the truth gal' performing at the Cornbury Music Festival, Oxford, earlier this summer
music... so how did she become country music's hottest new star?
Life and Style
The spy mistress-general: A lecturer in nutritional therapy in her modern life, Heather Rosa favours a Byzantine look topped off with a squid and a schooner
fashionEurope's biggest steampunk convention heads to Lincoln
News
Dr Alice Roberts in front of a
peopleAlice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Star turns: Montacute House
tv
News
i100Steve Carell selling chicken, Tina Fey selling saving accounts and Steve Colbert selling, um...
Arts and Entertainment
Unsettling perspective: Iraq gave Turner a subject and a voice (stock photo)
booksBrian Turner's new book goes back to the bloody battles he fought in Iraq
News
The Digicub app, for young fans
advertisingNSPCC 'extremely concerned'
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Some of the key words and phrases to remember
booksA user's guide to weasel words
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Senior Data Scientist (Data Mining, RSPSS, R, AI, CPLEX, SQL)

£60000 - £70000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Senior Data Sc...

Law Costs

Highly Attractive Salary: Austen Lloyd: BRISTOL - This is a very unusual law c...

Junior VB.NET Application Developer (ASP.NET, SQL, Graduate)

£28000 - £30000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Junior VB.NET ...

C# .NET Web Developer (ASP.NET, JavaScript, jQuery, XML, XLST)

£40000 - £50000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# .NET Web De...

Day In a Page

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

As the collections start, fashion editor Alexander Fury finds video and the internet are proving more attractive
Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy

Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall...

... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy
Weekend at the Asylum: Europe's biggest steampunk convention heads to Lincoln

Europe's biggest steampunk convention

Jake Wallis Simons discovers how Victorian ray guns and the martial art of biscuit dunking are precisely what the 21st century needs
Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Lying is dangerous and unnecessary. A new book explains the strategies needed to avoid it. John Rentoul on the art of 'uncommunication'
Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough? Was the beloved thespian the last of the cross-generation stars?

Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough?

The atomisation of culture means that few of those we regard as stars are universally loved any more, says DJ Taylor
She's dark, sarcastic, and bashes life in Nowheresville ... so how did Kacey Musgraves become country music's hottest new star?

Kacey Musgraves: Nashville's hottest new star

The singer has two Grammys for her first album under her belt and her celebrity fans include Willie Nelson, Ryan Adams and Katy Perry
American soldier-poet Brian Turner reveals the enduring turmoil that inspired his memoir

Soldier-poet Brian Turner on his new memoir

James Kidd meets the prize-winning writer, whose new memoir takes him back to the bloody battles he fought in Iraq
Aston Villa vs Hull match preview: Villa were not surprised that Ron Vlaar was a World Cup star

Villa were not surprised that Vlaar was a World Cup star

Andi Weimann reveals just how good his Dutch teammate really is
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef ekes out his holiday in Italy with divine, simple salads

Bill Granger's simple Italian salads

Our chef presents his own version of Italian dishes, taking in the flavours and produce that inspired him while he was in the country
The Last Word: Tumbleweed through deserted stands and suites at Wembley

The Last Word: Tumbleweed through deserted stands and suites at Wembley

If supporters begin to close bank accounts, switch broadband suppliers or shun satellite sales, their voices will be heard. It’s time for revolution