More Evidence Against Barriers

Strong public opposition over the past three years to the $4 million Caltrans proposal to erect fencing barriers nearly 10-feet tall on the Cold Spring Bridge has been based in large part on the widely shared conclusion that such barriers, in and of themselves, merely divert suicidal individuals to take their lives elsewhere in the community. Earlier this month a study published in the prestigious British Medical Journal lent convincing scientific evidence to support this conclusion. (The study may be seen here.)

Opponents of the Caltrans fencing barriers plan believe that human intervention is the crucial element in preventing suicidal behavior rather than merely diverting it to other places, and they contend that a superior alternative is a “human barriers” plan designed by a leading suicide prevention expert that has been in place on five bridges in New York for over two years. Caltrans has failed to give adequate consideration to this alternative.

The scientific evidence is set forth in an article published in the online edition of the British Medical Journal on July 6, 2010, and its findings and conclusions closely parallel the findings and conclusions of UCSB Professor Garrett Glasgow in reports filed earlier with Caltrans. The authors of the study concluded that fencing barriers installed on a Toronto bridge from which nine or 10 people jumped each year, on average, did not result in a decrease in the suicide rate in the community as a whole. The bridge had previously been second only to the Golden Gate Bridge in the annual number of suicide jumps.—Greg Mohr, member of the Friends of the Bridge Steering Committee

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