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Tuesday, December 18 , 2018, 4:17 am | Fair 48º


Letter to the Editor: Scientific Study Supports Claims Against Suicide 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 week, a study published in the prestigious British Medical Journal provided convincing scientific evidence to support this conclusion. (Click here to view the study.)

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 more than two years.

According to Friends of the Bridge, Caltans has failed to give adequate consideration to this alternative and has failed in other respects to meet fundamental legal requirements before approving the tall fencing barriers plan. A ruling by the Santa Barbara Superior Court is expected Tuesday, July 13 in the ensuing litigation over the issues.

The scientific evidence is set forth in an article published in the July 6 online edition of the British Medical Journal, 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.

In an action that came as surprise to many, Caltrans chose to begin construction work before the court hearing scheduled for July 13. Petitioners in the case are asking the court to set aside the approval by Caltrans of the fencing barriers plan pending further review and analysis in conformity with the California Environmental Quality Act. Among the issues that may be the subject of such review is an alternative plan presented to Caltrans by the state historic preservation officer, an opponent of the tall fencing barriers proposal, and rejected by Caltrans without affording public review and comment.

Greg Mohr
Friends of the Cold Spring Bridge Steering Committee

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