As the Golden Gate Bridge celebrates its 75th birthday this year, the San Francisco landmark also notes another milestone--a sharp increase in the number of people who have jumped to their deaths from its walkways.
According to a report from the Bridge Rail Foundation, a Marin County non-profit dedicated to the installation of a suicide prevention barrier along the iconic span, there were 37 suicides on the bridge last year.
That number is up from 32 in 2010, 31 in 2009 and 34 in 2010. Throughout its history, the bridge has averaged about 19 jumpers per year.
Since the Golden Gate Bridge, Highway and Transportation District, the official government body overseeing the bridge, doesn't keep exact figures on the number of suicides, these numbers are all approximate. The district's own estimates show an even steeper increase than do the Bridge Rail Foundation's statistics. Bridge officials estimate that only 25 people jumped in 2010, a nearly 50 percent increase to 2011.
"[The figures] prove again that the bridge is the top destination for suicide in the world," Paul Muller of the Bridge Rail Foundation told the San Francisco Chronicle. "More people die off this facility than any other on the planet, and it's been going on for 75 years."
Last year, officials escorted about 100 people from the bridge whom they believed were about to commit suicide.
The Golden Gate Bridge has always been a magnet for suicides. SF Appeal reports:
Interestingly, in his original plans for the bridge, architect Joseph Strauss designed the railings to be nearly six feet tall as a way to discourage jumpers. By the time the bridge was finally constructed, the railings were lowered to a mere four feet and, as we know, many suicides have followed.
While not guaranteed to eliminate all suicides, physical barriers are said to be generally effective in significantly decreasing attempts at any given location. Suicide is often a very impulsive act, experts say, and anything on hand to give pause to someone considering killing themselves is likely to deter them from actually following though.
In 2008, Bridge officials approved a $50 million project to construct a series of nets under the structure; however, funding for the project--which is legally prohibited from coming out of toll revenues--has yet to be identified and construction has yet to actually begin.
Over the bridge's three-quarters of a century of existence, this is the eighth such attempt to implement a suicide prevention mechanism.
Check out this video detailing the history of the Golden Gate Bridge: