The City of Vancouver will begin installing controversial suicide prevention fencing along the Burrard Bridge this week.
The new fencing has not been universally supported, but Vancouver Coastal Health says the new barriers will save lives.
“We applaud the City of Vancouver for adding the barriers,” said Dr. Emily Newhouse. “Research shows that suicide attempts from bridges are impulsive. Generally, if someone is prevented from jumping from a bridge, they don’t try other means of killing themselves.”
The City and a stakeholder group considered several designs for the project, including netting below the bridge, glass fencing, and several other fencing designs.
A picket fence design with heritage style pedestrian lamp posts was chosen as the final design.
According to the City of Vancouver, the design respects the heritage elements of the bridge more than other options, while maximizing views for pedestrians, cyclists, and vehicle passengers. The fencing will also have lower construction and maintenance costs.
Earlier this year, Coun. George Affleck introduced a motion to stop the installation of the suicide barriers because he felt their construction would be unsightly.
Heritage Vancouver also felt the barriers would drastically change the appearance of the bridge.
“It is our fear that these new interventions will irrevocably alter the appearance of this much-loved landmark heritage structure,” Heritage Vancouver wrote in a letter addressed to Mayor Gregor Robertson.
A petition was created on change.org to stop the fencing from going up, garnering 2,450 supporters. However, the City of Vancouver rejected Affleck’s motion in late May.
Donald Luxton, heritage consultant for the Burrard Bridge’s rehabilitation, says the new features will enhance the structure.
“This landmark rehabilitation project will enhance the Burrard Bridge’s condition into the future, as well as maintain and enhance its heritage features,” said Luxton.
“The most significant addition for heritage advocates is the restoration of the long-lost pedestrian light fixtures. When the work is complete this venerable heritage bridge– one of the few true Art Deco bridges in the world– will have a new lease on life.”
Upgrades on the Burrard Bridge began earlier this year and are expected to be completed in mid-2017.
If you are having suicidal thoughts, or feel affected by the issues in this story, consider getting help through the Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention.
You can find advice and contact a crisis centre in your area at this link: suicideprevention.ca. Crisis centres are available throughout Canada, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.