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Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Suspenders And Belt 

The Chron has been running a multi-day article on people jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge and what, if anything, should be done about it. Back in the mists of time, the original design of the bridge had a 5'6" barrier along the pedestrian walkway and there were plans for making sure that people were discouraged from jumping. But during the run-up to building the bridge the height of the railing was lowered to 4' and the high-intensity monitoring of the foot-borne traffic was cut back. So we currently have an average of at least one person a week going off the bridge.

The argument about making it harder to jump comes down to two points of view

  1. People who want to die are going to find some way to off themselves, so why bother retrofitting the bridge. Besides it's so pretty and a suicide barrier would just ruin the aesthetic. The more subtle version of this argument is that if you go off the bridge you are must less likely to hurt a bystander than if you go off a building or throw yourself into traffic.
  2. We're talking about human beings here. Humans that we should, perhaps, try to help. If we build some sort of barrier or net maybe we can get these people treatment and they won't want to die anymore. The subtle version of this argument is that, according to the first article in the series, in the population of would-be jumpers who were talked out of jumping less than 10% go on to find some other way to shuffle off this mortal coil.
Now I personally fall into camp number two. Letting people die because you don't want to alter the view is fucked up. But that's not why I'm writing this post.

In today's article they mentioned a woman who jumped off the bridge, gun in hand and shot herself in the head on the way down. Now that's making sure.


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