NEWS

B.C. promises suicide barrier on major Vancouver bridge

05/01/2012 10:21 EDT | Updated 07/01/2012 05:12 EDT

B.C.’s minister of transportation and infrastructure is pledging to have anti-suicide barriers installed on Vancouver’s Ironworkers' Memorial Bridge next year.

Blair Lekstrom told CBC news Tuesday that a barrier to prevent people in distress from jumping off the span is “in the design stage”.

Lekstrom revealed the plan after CBC news highlighted the lack of progress on a recommendation by the B.C. Coroners Service in 2008, which called for barriers on five Metro Vancouver bridges where most of the deaths due to jumping occur.

Lekstrom offered no details on cost, or the completion date, but said it “will go a long way … to help prevent suicide attempts off that bridge.”

The latest statistics from B.C.’s coroner show there were no reported suicides off the IronWorkers' Memorial last year, and an average of one a year for the previous five years. In the same period, 26 people leapt from the Lions Gate bridge, which was also singled out by the Coroners Service for barriers.

Not on Lions Gate

But Lekstrom won’t say when the Lions Gate will get the same treatment, citing engineering challenges in erecting a barrier on the bridge deck.

“Wind shear is a major issue for us,” he said. “Obviously safety of the bridge has to be a priority.”

Although concerns over the barriers looks and cost were considered in a report commissioned by the government four years ago, Lekstrom denied either were a factor in delays.

“This is not about esthetics at all,” he said, adding the ultimate price tag of the barriers are “not the focus for our ministry at all.”

One report commissioned by the province in 2009, pegged the cost of barriers for the Ironworkers memorial at between five and six million dollars.

Good Samaritan skeptical

Melinda Clancey-Dubienski isn’t surprised that it’s taken four years for a development.

"Because it’s a bureaucracy," Clancey-Dubienski said. "It takes a long time to get anything done."

While driving over the Cambie bridge last June, Clancey-Dubienski saw a woman dangling off the railing. She sprang from her car, ran across several lanes of traffic and joined another bystander to hold on to the distraught woman until police arrived.

“She was pregnant and her boyfriend was in jail and all she was doing was crying uncontrollably," Clancey-Dubienski said.

But while she literally held the woman’s life in her hands, the Good Samaritan wonders if barriers are the answer.

“I don’t know if that’s a necessary fix," she said, but added that if she saw evidence that the barriers save lives, she would support them.

“Yeah, I think that would be good.”

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