Guest Opinion | Susan Osen: Pasadena Can Save Lives – And Our Bridge

Published : Thursday, October 31, 2019 | 11:51 AM

New suicide deterrent fencing on the Colorado Street Bridge may likely feature steel mesh as opposed to glass and would open back up seating alcoves to pedestrians, if a design meeting Tuesday was any indication. Image courtesy City of Pasadena.

I am outraged that Pasadena is considering a “vertical barrier only” solution to the Colorado Street Bridge suicide problem. Pasadena’s hiring of Donald MacDonald Architects was brilliant, as they are a world-class firm and, coincidentally, engineers for the HORIZONTAL suicide barrier being constructed for the Golden Gate Bridge, the #1 bridge in the world for attempted suicides. The Golden Gate Bridge presents complicated engineering challenges. San Francisco thoroughly researched alternatives and was committed to finding an effective suicide deterrent that preserves treasured views of and from its bridge. As a result, they are currently building a horizontal, marine-grade stainless steel net, to be placed 20 feet below the pedestrian deck.

In contrast, our City Council didn’t even allow the MacDonald firm to present a horizontal option to the public, rejecting the expertise that informed San Francisco’s decision that horizontal barriers are effective and less obtrusive. Instead, we’re handed unsupported and disingenuous excuses, like our Public Works Director’s oxymoron: “with nets, someone can just jump into them and roll out of them. And if someone lands on the net, then you have to extract them.” Really? Which is it, and why not let our design firm explain why San Francisco rejected that logic? Now, we get crocodile tears from City Hall about how tough it is to love any of the final designs and how each presents painful tradeoffs.

It doesn’t have to be this way, though. Over 30 years ago, Pasadena committed substantial resources to retrofit the Colorado Street Bridge, mindful that improvements should conform as closely as possible to the original. Today our City Council has abandoned that principle, while soft-pedaling the fact that the guaranteed first-casualty of any vertical barrier will be something we all love and share—the character of our beloved landmark bridge.
Susan Osen







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