The Golden Gate Bridge is frequently cited as the #1 suicide spot in the world. Someone jumps about every other week. It's supposedly one of the surest ways to die, although some &mdash like one guy interviewed in the super depressing documentary The Bridge &mdash do actually survive the fall.
A Chronicle reporter described the jump as follows:
The body goes from roughly 75 to 80 mph to nearly zero in a nanosecond. The physics of inertia being what they are, internal organs tend to keep going. The force of impact causes them to tear loose. Autopsy reports typically indicate that the jumpers have lacerated aortas, livers, spleens and hearts. Ribs are often broken, and the impact shoves them into the heart or lungs. Jumpers have broken sternums, clavicles, pelvises and necks. Skull fractures are common.
The Golden Gate Bridge was built in 1937 by Joseph Strauss, and the reason the bridge is so easy to jump from is because Strauss was just five feet tall and he wanted to be able to look out on the bay, too. So he changed the rail height from the originally intended five and a half feet to four feet. 10 weeks after completion, a WW1 veteran strolled onto the bridge, climbed over the rail, and took the first plunge.
The good news is that the Golden Gate Bridge is finally getting a barrier. After years of discussion and no action, a committee called the Golden Gate Bridge Physical Suicide Deterrent System Project agreed on a steel safety net 20 feet below the walkway, a yet-to-be-funded project that will cost three years and $50 million. (The lag was due to bureaucrats bickering about how to make one without ruining the bridge's aesthetic for years. Ultimately, they decided to paint the barrier's horizontal mesh wiring orange.) It's about time &mdash the Empire State Building and the Eiffel Tower already have suicide barriers in place, and Aokigahara forest in Japan, reportedly the #2 suicide hot spot of the world, has signs reminding people that their life is a precious gift from their parents and begging them to reconsider.
I hope this new initiative will go through, and that it will reduce the number of suicides in San Francisco.
Image by Dawn Endico via Flickr