Controversy flares over suicide barriers on iconic Burrard Street Bridge
It’s one of Vancouver’s most iconic bridges.
Deconstruction of the railings along the Burrard Street Bridge is about to get underway but what’s going up in its place, isn’t sitting well with some people. One Vancouver city councillor is introducing a motion asking the city to reconsider plans for the new fencing, saying that there was no public consultation on the matter.
“My concern on the public consultation process was there was none prior to us making a decision regarding the fencing,” said NPA councillor George Affleck.
“It came in last minute to council. Vision Vancouver voted in favor of it, the heritage community were disappointed and so the consultation was made after the process.”
The fencing in question is being put up to prevent people from jumping off the bridge. According to the Suicide Prevention Centre of BC, there are about 17 suicide attempts a year on the Burrard Street Bridge and say that while suicide hotlines are a great step towards prevention, nothing is stronger than a physical barrier.
David Fine is leading an online petition against the new fencing on change.org and it currently has more than 800 signatures.
“In Toronto the Bloor Viaduct is the second worse spot in North America for suicides, and they put up fences there, and afterwards they did a study and found that although suicides from the bridge decreased, overall numbers did not,” Fine said.
“So you just push the problem somewhere else.”
There have also been concerns from the heritage community when it comes to the aesthetics of the art deco structure and views for cyclists and pedestrians.
“The heritage community has said very clearly that this art deco, this historical piece of architecture… will be impacted by this fencing,” Affleck said.
“The second issue is from aesthetics from a pedestrian point of view and the cyclist. We have as our action plan to get people on their bikes and walk and this will have an impact on the beauty of walking across this bridge.”
Some opponents say there are other options, including netting below the bridge. The city says they consulted with a number of groups including the heritage community and BC Crisis Centre.
Councillor Affleck will introduce the motion at next week’s city council meeting.
~ with files from Grace Ke