NOTE: This article contains sensitive descriptions regarding suicide. Please read at your own discretion.
The installation of a suicide prevention barrier on one of the world’s most famous bridges has renewed questions about why B.C. can’t install similar measures on a Metro Vancouver span.
Crews have completed the installation of stainless steel nets on both sides of San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge. The netting hangs about 6 metres (20 feet) below the bridge deck, where it is visible to would-be jumpers and meant to act as both a barrier and a deterrent.
The 2.74-kilometre suspension bridge opened in 1937, and has been the site of more than 2,000 suicides in its 87-year history.
The installation of the anti-suicide measures on the San Francisco bridge has Delta, B.C.’s police chief frustrated.
Neil Dubord, along with the Delta Police Board and the City of Delta, have been pressing the provincial government to install anti-suicide infrastructure on the Alex Fraser Bridge, which connects Delta and Richmond.
The province, he said, as been steadfast that no such fix is possible on the 1986-built cable-stayed span.
“Its significantly older than the Alex Fraser Bridge,” Dubord said of the iconic red California bridge.
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“They were able to find an engineering solution that actually will prevent people from dying on that bridge — I’m hopeful that, in time, we can be innovative and think of a solution for the Alex Fraser Bridge.”
Dubord said there are typically “a couple” of confirmed fatal jumps from the Alex Fraser every year, but that the number spiked last year.
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“In 2023 we had five, which is double the amount we would typically see in an average year,” he said.
“There were some horrible circumstances of our police officers being right there and having to watch suicides happen and not being able to prevent it, and there’s trauma.”
The transportation ministry maintains that the installation of anti-suicide infrastructure is impossible.
“The Alex Fraser Bridge was not designed to safely accommodate tall safety fencing, as any additional barrier or fencing would create stress on the structure,” a spokesperson said in a Thursday email.
Transportation Minister Rob Fleming has previously pointed to the installation of 24/7 crisis help phones installed on the bridge as an alternative.
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“But sometimes there’s an engineering challenge where wind loading or other considerations affect the performance of the bridge, and it’s simply not possible” to install a barrier, he said in October, following a fatal jump.
Dubord, however, believes the Golden Gate Bridge example and the fence recently installed on Florida’s Sunshine Skyway Bridge — a 1982-built cable stay bridge similar to the Alex Fraser — show it can be done.
“Where there is a will there is a way. If there’s the political will to be able to move this forward I think there might be an engineering solution somewhere,” he said.
“I think the message to the province has to be the downstream impacts this has on families on health care, on other costs that are incurred as a result of these tragedies.”
If you or someone you know is in crisis and needs help, resources are available. In case of an emergency, please call 9-1-1 for immediate help.
For a directory of support services in your area, visit the Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention at suicideprevention.ca.
Learn more about preventing suicide with these warning signs and tips on how to help.
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