April 14, 2017

$200 million project of building a net to catch jumpers from the Golden Gate Bridge.

Originally approved in 2014, the project finally gets under way, to be completed by 2021.
Officials say the net will be positioned 20 feet below the sidewalk and extend out another 20 feet. Made of seven football fields worth of stainless steel, the structure will curve up slightly at its ends and be suspended 200 feet above the Pacific Ocean on both sides of the bridge — invisible to drivers.
Here's the highly memorable New Yorker article "JUMPERS/The fatal grandeur of the Golden Gate Bridge" — published in 2003. Here's the passage that's so well-known that I am assuming someone would refer to it immediately in the comments:
Survivors often regret their decision in midair, if not before. Ken Baldwin and Kevin Hines both say they hurdled over the [4-foot] railing, afraid that if they stood on the chord they might lose their courage. Baldwin was twenty-eight and severely depressed on the August day in 1985 when he told his wife not to expect him home till late. “I wanted to disappear,” he said. “So the Golden Gate was the spot. I’d heard that the water just sweeps you under.” On the bridge, Baldwin counted to ten and stayed frozen. He counted to ten again, then vaulted over. “I still see my hands coming off the railing,” he said. As he crossed the chord in flight, Baldwin recalls, “I instantly realized that everything in my life that I’d thought was unfixable was totally fixable—except for having just jumped.”

Kevin Hines was eighteen when he took a municipal bus to the bridge one day in September, 2000. After treating himself to a last meal of Starbursts and Skittles, he paced back and forth and sobbed on the bridge walkway for half an hour. No one asked him what was wrong. A beautiful German tourist approached, handed him her camera, and asked him to take her picture, which he did. “I was like, ‘Fuck this, nobody cares,’ “ he told me. “So I jumped.” But after he crossed the chord, he recalls, “My first thought was What the hell did I just do? I don’t want to die.”

88 comments:

readering said...

I wonder what they could have gotten for one hundred million.

readering said...

200 would pay for a lot of trips to Mar a Lago.

Bob Boyd said...

More people will jump now, just for the thrill.
I wonder what he penalty will be.

Matthew Sablan said...

I'm just curious of the physics of the net. It's got to be pretty high up to catch people and not still risk catching them. What do they do about birds that get caught in the net? Did they think that this might make people MORE likely to jump, since they will survive? Was there another way that might have been cheaper?

If that $200 Million had gone to something else, say helping make mental health affordable, suicide prevention hotlines, outreach to troubled people, etc., would that be more effective than a net?

Amexpat said...

Suicide prevention is a worthy cause but I think this is a waste of money. There are just too many high bridges and buildings and you can't suicide proof them all. Better to spend funds on suicide hotlines and other methods of prevention.

sparrow said...

The last minute regrets are interesting, makes you wonder how frequent those thoughts are and whether the despair can be prevented by highlighting these thoughts a priori

Unknown said...

As long as it's not my tax dollars, go head on with your bad self.

AprilApple said...

You'll have to lower yourself down to the net and then jump off.

BarrySanders20 said...

Stainless steel netting? sounds like a sieve rather than a net.

Won't the dedicated bring some wire snips and cut through the mesh?

Matthew Sablan said...

"Won't the dedicated bring some wire snips and cut through the mesh?"

-- Or just jump somewhere else. I get the feeling this is less suicide prevention and more trying to just move it somewhere else.

Bob Boyd said...

39 jumped and 200 more were prevented somehow. Those are surprisingly high numbers.
Apparently the Coast Guard goes and recovers the bodies most of the time.

Here's an interesting article if you want the gory details:
http://www.sfgate.com/news/article/LETHAL-BEAUTY-No-easy-death-Suicide-by-bridge-2562269.php

LarsPorsena said...

Blogger Bob Boyd said...
More people will jump now, just for the thrill.
I wonder what he penalty will be.

4/14/17, 10:18 AM
---------------------------------
You beat me to it.

Gabriel said...

Maybe they should make the net out of sewn-together dollar bills. It would be cheaper.

Not trying to be callous but that's not a lot of lives saved for the money. There are many other lives that need saving and could be saved for less. The current method--people watching the bridge for jumpers--costs a tiny fraction of $200 million and only misses about 30 people a year.

Matthew Sablan said...

"The current method--people watching the bridge for jumpers--costs a tiny fraction of $200 million and only misses about 30 people a year."

-- I wonder what it feels like to be one of those people who *misses* one of those 30 people.

madAsHell said...

What the hell did I just do? I don’t want to die.

This explains my acrophobia. I can't imagine wondering, and waiting for impact.

Drago said...

readering: "200 would pay for a lot of trips to Mar a Lago."

Why send suicidal people to Mar a Lago? That's a place for "winners"!

Mark said...

At the same time as they are seeking to prevent people from giving into despair and killing themselves, California is pushing people who need hope and compassion over the edge by facilitating doctors handing out lethal drugs for them to kill themselves.

Drago said...

Why not just give all these crazies a fun ride on the CA "bullet" (LOL) train to nowhere?

These lost souls are already nowhere, but at least here they could bump the Train ridership stats a bit.

Drago said...

Not to worry. In the end this "project" will take 17 years, come in at about $24 Billion (including direct deposits into the State Employee retirement funds), have massive physical gaps here and there, and where the net does exist it will be made of substandard material which will allow folks to fall through anyway!

The good news? It will be the most "successful" "project" in modern CA history!

Bad Lieutenant said...

Surely this can better be handled by drones. Have them perch under the bridge and swoop down to catch any falling object larger than a cat and bring it back to shore, presumably to the nearest looney bin.

Mark said...

If that $200 Million had gone to something else . . . say would that be more effective than a net?

Something like not promoting the idea, now enshrined in law, that there is such a thing as life not worth living? That it is acceptable or even preferable to kill yourself in certain circumstances? That if "quality of life" is sufficiently low, they will even assist you in committing suicide?

Kate said...

It didn't even occur to me that more people will jump with the net, but of course they will! SF just put a sign on the bridge that says, "Extreme thrills here."

Mark said...

I'm just curious of the physics of the net.
Stainless steel netting?


One does wonder how the thing will affect the aerodynamics of the bridge.

Also, will the net, while saving lives, cause severe physical injury to people, thereby leading to some substantial lawsuits?

Michael K said...

Fortunately, California has a money tree.

This is just a drop in the bullet train bucket.

Paddy O said...

People who are depressed get locked into obsessions, a mental loop that can't seemingly be broken. Some people start obsessing with death, the only sure stop. Others obsess with some other issue in their life.

Some obsessions get nets, to save them. Some obsessions get a push, to throw them deeper into it.

We're much better at addressing symptoms, whether by restricting or indulging them, than we are at addressing underlying causes. Because that latter takes investment and commitment to a person.

HoodlumDoodlum said...

Geez, $200M will buy at least a dozen GBU43/B MOABs, wouldn't it?
Where are your priorities, San Francisco!?

(Am I doing that right? It's apparently cool to compare the costs of things again.)

Bill Peschel said...

Althouse saved me from resurrecting that story, which impressed me so much I saved it.

There's also another one -- I don't know if I have that one -- that talked about an alternative plan of building a fence along the Golden Gate's railing. It would force jumpers to make a bigger effort to jump from the bridge.

It was rejected. San Franciscans were willing to state that they'd rather have people jumping from the bridge than modify it to save people's lives.

(For those who wonder, there's something about the bridge that's more attractive to potential suicidees.)

Rick said...

Why are are the same people who argue for assisted suicide spending money (ineffectively) to prevent suicide?

Do they have the right to die or not?

DanTheMan said...

This is California. In a few years, jumping will be mandatory.

MayBee said...

I've seen the aftermath of two jumpers, both in cities and both onto the cement.
One guy's foot caught a window and air-conditioning unit on the way down, just about 4 floors into his jump. And one guy caught the edge of an awning structure. I always wonder what they thought as they felt that pain on their way down. I've always wondered if that made them realize with sudden terror that they were about to hit the ground.

Jumping must be chosen because there is no going back once you start. But it must be awful because you are conscious for a while, and I can't believe the desire to live doesn't kick in at some point in the journey.

Chris said...

I'm stuck on the guy's last meal being Skittles. That's evidence of negative self-esteem right there.

Skippy Tisdale said...

This is so wrong. Now people will instead, jump off of some tall building in the Financial District, which creates the possibility of landing on a pedestrian. Very stupid idea.

Rick Turley said...

I can look down on the award-winning Natchez Trace bridge from my back yard when the leaves aren't out. The locals call it the "jump off" bridge. Since it is over a highway and bare land, I imagine it is much more effective than one over water.

Since we've moved here, the sheriffs have blocked off the road twice for potential jumpers. The crisis management team unfortunately is batting only 500.

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Natchez_Trace_Parkway_Bridge_(side).jpg

Humperdink said...

Wouldn't it be less expensive just to hire United Airlines to counsel the would-be jumpers and then drag them off the precipice? One of their many specialties.

mockturtle said...

This is California. In a few years, jumping will be mandatory.

If I lived in California, I would want to jump.

Yancey Ward said...

200 million dollars? Sheesh. The bridge itself was built for 35 million which is about 600-700 million inflation adjusted.

And seriously, it will probably save zero lives. No wonder California is going bankrupt.

Owen said...

Won't the jumpers just jump down to the net, and then pick themselves up and go to the edge of the net and jump again?

They need to install a second net below the first.

Or a kind of gill net to tangle and trap people. Then they can sue for their injuries.

Owen said...

Instead of this net thing, why not have dispensers on the bridge that contain GoPro cameras. Tell the jumpers to wear one for the trip down. All YouTube revenues will go to the estate.

mockturtle said...

I'm really split on this issue. One one hand, it's a long-standing tradition for despondent folks to jump off the Golden Gate Bridge, an act that carries with it an element of prestige. But I also agree that those dissuaded or prevented from suicide often have a change of heart and I would like to give them time to reconsider.

BillyTalley said...

I'm connecting this with your subsequent post about zero testosterone.

themightypuck said...

The actual bridge took under 5 years to build but a jumper catcher takes 7.

surfed said...

Sometimes suicide IS the answer.

DanTheMan said...

>>The actual bridge took under 5 years to build but a jumper catcher takes 7.

We went from zero space flights to the moon in 9 years.
When Bush proposed going back, NASA said it would take 13 years.



Kirk Parker said...

mockturtle,

"If I lived in California, I would want to jump."

Just please, no jumping into WA state. We have enough loonies here already.

FullMoon said...

Mark said... [hush]​[hide comment]

I'm just curious of the physics of the net.
Stainless steel netting?

One does wonder how the thing will affect the aerodynamics of the bridge.

Also, will the net, while saving lives, cause severe physical injury to people, thereby leading to some substantial lawsuits?


Yep, twenty foot jump is enough to do some serious damage.

If I am not mistaken, there is an agreed upon local news blackout of publicizing names of jumpers. No glory for the dead guy.

Crazy Jane said...

The $200 million cost is ridiculous, but it needs to be done. When the local Landmarks Commission approved the netting in 2014, the estimated cost was $66 million. That's California for you.

The original plan for the bridge specified 5'6' railing, presumably with plenty of openings for viewing but not opportunities for climbing. The lower railing was adopted as part of plan revisions. The suicides began a couple weeks after the bridge opened in 1937. Since then, the Golden Gate has been the biggest go-to destination for suicidal people in the US, maybe the world.

Nets have been strung under many bridges worldwide in recent years, with great success. It's taken way too long and way too much handwringing over the aesthetic effects, but those concerns have been answered. Why this effort should have taken longer than building the bridge itself is beyond me.

A moving documentary, The Bridge, was released in 2006 and still can be found online.

stever said...

Well part of me says let them go, there are many ways to kill yourself, so taking one off the table doesn't change things. 200 million can help a lot of people in lots of ways, if you are compelled to spend it. Yes I understand the symbolism of it but cut off access to pedestrians on the bridge entirely.

mockturtle said...

Kirk Parker observes: Just please, no jumping into WA state. We have enough loonies here already.

Amen to that! I think WA is pretty well Californicated already. One reason I have moved to AZ.

Michael K said...

"One reason I have moved to AZ."

After moving to AZ, I immediately got AZ license plates.

Can't be too careful. The AZ cops watch for CA plates. They hate us.

gspencer said...

Hey, I'll bet using this new net becomes a rite of passage. Jump off the bridge for the thrill knowing there won't be fatal consequences.

First to try will be the local are Greek Life houses, then college kids generally, then the stoned crowd, then those who live in Millennium Towers despairing that their condos have lost so much value because their building continues to sink rendering the building off kilter.

Fernandinande said...

Maybe that's why the Preble's Meadow Jumping Mouse is endangered.

Fernandinande said...

A human weighs about 2500 times as much as a mouse, so a Jumping Mouse net could be built for a mere $80,000.

DanTheMan said...

Again, this is California.
In a few years there will be special programs to get the underserved communities to the bridge, and it will be made handicapped accessible with instructions printed in 27 languages.
Those who fail to get past the net will become "suicide survivors" and eligible for state and federal aid. The Black Suicides Matter movement will label anyone who cares about white suicide victims as racists.

People who refuse to jump will be called "haters", "deniers" and "suicideophobes".

Rachel Dolezal will proclaim herself a victim of suicide.


Jay Elink said...

I propose that California respect "the right of people to do what they want with their own bodies", and build a convenient chute off the bridge to allow people an easy exit.

Or, instead of a net to catch "the Jumper Community", why not an unclimbable wall to prevent them from jumping at all?

madAsHell said...

I'm just curious of the physics of the net.
Stainless steel netting?


"It slices, it dices, it makes Julienne fries!!"
--Ron Popeil

Humperdink said...

Owen said: "Won't the jumpers just jump down to the net, and then pick themselves up and go to the edge of the net and jump again?

They need to install a second net below the first."

It's nets all the way down!!

Lewis Wetzel said...

Put sharpshooters on the bridge's towers & have them kill anyone who looks like they are going to jump.

Craig said...

Make bungee cords mandatory.

mockturtle said...

Put sharpshooters on the bridge's towers & have them kill anyone who looks like they are going to jump.

LOL!

MadisonMan said...

Survivors often regret their decision in midair, if not before.

A more accurate statement would be "The Two survivors we talked to regretted their decision" but all means, New Yorker, generalize it to more people that the facts support.

As long it is California fritttering away money during the noontime suppertime choretime too on this, I have no problem with it. It seems a waste of money to me, but hey -- it's their money. If it's Federal Money, then it's really stupid.

mockturtle said...

I'm just curious of the physics of the net.
Stainless steel netting?

"It slices, it dices, it makes Julienne fries!!"
--Ron Popeil



Another LOL! ;-D

Curious George said...

"Crazy Jane said...


Nets have been strung under many bridges worldwide in recent years, with great success. It's taken way too long and way too much handwringing over the aesthetic effects, but those concerns have been answered. Why this effort should have taken longer than building the bridge itself is beyond me."

So they move to another bridge or worse, building, and they land on someone and take them out too.

Humperdink said...

Assign each jumper a parachute. If they change their mind halfway down, they pull the rip cord. If not, say goodnight Chet.

Yancey Ward said...

CrazyJane,

It is unlikely to actually save any lives- if it is known the net is there, the people who think they will commit suicide will simply to some other location to jump, or some other method of suicide. I think it even likely that the number of people dying in the net itself won't be much lower, if at all, than those that reach the water today since we are sure to see a great increase in the number of people actually jumping in the first place simply due to thrill seeking.

I have to believe there are much better ways to spend $200 million dollars to save lives than spending it on people who don't value their own.

Wilbur said...

I confess I look forward to the headline: "Trump to California - Drop Dead!"

Diogenes of Sinope said...

Why do the Democrats want people to jump off of other bridges? Seems to me that the Golden Gate Bridge is an extremely effective suicide venue.

Diogenes of Sinope said...

Liberals support assisted suicide, but not unassisted suicide, why?

Etienne said...

They should use that money to build a soylent green factory.

TWW said...

"After the $200 million net is completed, the president of the Golden Gate Bridge Jumpers Society urged members to stand on the railing and jump into traffic."

TWW said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
mockturtle said...

Humperdink suggests: Assign each jumper a parachute. If they change their mind halfway down, they pull the rip cord. If not, say goodnight Chet.

I like it! And it would be much cheaper than a net. And the parachutes might be reused.

Michelle Dulak Thomson said...

Why are are the same people who argue for assisted suicide spending money (ineffectively) to prevent suicide?

The only reason I can think of is that they want suicide to be decorous. They want doctors to prescribe poison, and then your family and friends to gather round while you poison yourself. They emphatically don't want you to shoot yourself (such a mess!), nor to jump off the GGB. Probably because the latter two would get you in the papers, and we can't have that.

The Godfather said...

They say the net will be completed by 2021. Too late for the many San Franciscans who will be despondent about the reelection of Trump in 2020.

James Pawlak said...

Why? Science would maintain that the human genome will be improved by allowing such defectives to "off" themselves---And, feed fishes.

Crazy Jane said...

Many people disagree with me, and I can hear it. Desperate people who want to die will find a way. I have known people who killed themselves, and I have talked with a psychology professor who said, essentially, that we just have to let them go.

My point about the Golden Gate Bridge is that it is pernicious for a government to do nothing for 80 years to mitigate an attraction that has made it easy for as many as 2,000 people to commit suicide. (The exact number is unknown, and estimates almost certainly are lower than the real number.)

This doesn't happen in private settings. You cannot climb over a handrail and jump off the Empire State Building; this may be because the building's owner doesn't want lawsuits or because the owner doesn't want to be responsible, even indirectly, for people's deaths. Why shouldn't our government, the people's government, hold itself to a similar standard of caution?

If you were on the Golden Gate Bridge and you saw someone haul himself over that 4-foot handrail, would you stop and try to talk him back onto the sidewalk and, from there, to the parking lot? If not, why not?

Lewis Wetzel said...

Imagine how bad it would be to be a depressed fish. You can't jump off of anything and kill yourself. You can't hang yourself or drown yourself.

mockturtle said...

Lewis laments: Imagine how bad it would be to be a depressed fish. You can't jump off of anything and kill yourself. You can't hang yourself or drown yourself.

Maybe not a fish but whales will beach themselves. Not only do they end it all, but they can stink up the seashore for months.

Gospace said...

How much is a life worth? A valid question, that people don't like to ask.

Default coverage for SGLI is $200,000.00, max coverage of $400,000.00. So a max of $400K is what the government values the life of a soldier, sailor, airman or Marine.

Southern utilities have linemen do glovework on substantially higher voltages then northern utilities allow. High voltage linemen are well compensated no matter where they work. And when one dies while working, they know they're family gates a substantial payout. It's budgeted for, because all the utilities know, no matter what safety precautions they take, they're going to lose, on the average, X number of linemen per year. The alternative is blacking out huge areas whenever a high voltage line needs servicing. And even then, something could go wrong, which means something will go wrong. The estimate I saw was 30 death per 100K workers per year, more or less.

Valuing the lives at $400K the net, without any additional maintenance costs, and they will exist, will have to save 500 people to be worthwhile. And as someone mentioned above, dropping into a steel net from 20 foot up will mangle and injure some, and they will sue, and being California, win. Bringing the total cost way up.

The Golden Gate Bridge doesn't need a net. Right in the middle, put a diving board up, with a sign: "Suicides enter and depart here!" I'll bet most of the people contemplating suicide walk away when looking out at the board. And probably a lot who climb the stairs and step on the board turn around once they actually see what awaits them. And those that jump? Oh, well, tough luck for them.

glenn said...

When I was in the Coast Guard in NorCal in the early 60's I talked to some Coasties who had retrieved the bodies. They didn't like doing it.

mockturtle said...

I still like Humperdink's parachute idea.

Michael K said...

Imagine how bad it would be to be a depressed fish. You can't jump off of anything and kill yourself. You can't hang yourself or drown yourself.

You spend all your time looking for a hook.

aritai said...

Hard Work? My @$$. A mom with two children, one on the way, and a teenager, with an a elderly mom in the home. Maintaining a nuclear family, doing some homeschooling, without a Nanny in their Tower. Getting her and one of her children spat upon by a a passenger with who knows what diseases while flying commercial, and having to schedule regular doctor checkups. While leaving her husband smiling. "The Horror the Horror!" Capable of telling the truth no matter how many swamp leaches are feeding on her. Now that's hare work an presidential material. A piece of Americana repeated in most Coal Miner's homes, when America was great, because of this. Anyone of whom was qualified to be President.

Bad Lieutenant said...

glenn said...
When I was in the Coast Guard in NorCal in the early 60's I talked to some Coasties who had retrieved the bodies. They didn't like doing it.
4/14/17, 9:33 PM

Two solutions!

One, curare darts. Anyone who crosses the curb gets shot by a robo-guard of some kind and authorities are summoned. The would-be jumpers can then state whether they wish to receive the antidote.

Two, a suicide booth. Like the Eyrie in Game of Thrones, you walk out into a booth hanging over the water. It's got an iris in the floor so it can drop you whenever it pleases (or you do). But you have to watch videos of jumpers, of the bodies coming out of the water, of families, of those Coast Guard people complaining about the mess, testimonials by people who jumped and regretted it, by some shrink who offers help.

If after all that you still push the red button, plop.

Rusty said...

Orrrrr. You could offer prizes for people who catch jumpers. Say and all expense paid weekend in Vegas.
People would use their own boats and nets.
Save the Cali taxpayers a bunch and turn something tragic into a sport of sorts.

Rusty said...

mockturtle said...
Lewis laments: Imagine how bad it would be to be a depressed fish. You can't jump off of anything and kill yourself. You can't hang yourself or drown yourself.

"Maybe not a fish but whales will beach themselves. Not only do they end it all, but they can stink up the seashore for months."

Hence the use of dynomite. While not particularly effective it is highly entertaining.Making the removal of said whale a community spectical.
I see a win.

Rick67 said...

I hate to ask such a stupid question, but how badly will people be hurt if and when they land in that net? Probable answer = Engineers already thought of that and know the answer.

(I fell about 15 feet onto our driveway almost two years ago, and I am still recovering. I am extra sensitive to people falling.)

kentuckyliz said...

Instead of the booth with the iris, why not a slide? You could have a suicide intervention person chat with them first...and if the person is determined, then a thanatologist could help them with a ritual of saying goodbye cruel world in a video, make peace and all that...then administer some Demerol to make them relaxed and happy, then bring them to the slide and WHEEEEEEEE!

In all seriousness though, it is very difficult to help those with persistent depression and who are chronically suicidal. A pep talk about life is worth living is not going to convince them when they have had ongoing therapy, medication, and repeated 72 hour hospitalizations with previous attempts.

Navy8r said...

Suicide is so often a permanent solution to a temporary problem. This net IS very expensive, but worth everything to those for whom it affords a second chance at life.