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V-shaped safety feature for bridges

Image credit: https://api.time.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/ap489444274558.jpg?quality=85&w=1200&h=628&crop=1

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Spook Louw
Spook Louw Aug 02, 2021
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Presently, the majority of all suicide prevention barriers on bridges come in one of three forms:
  1. Fence-like metal structures, usually with an inward curve on top.
  2. Glass walls
  3. Safety nets under bridges.
The aim of these barriers obviously is to prevent injury or death by jumping or falling, but there are other factors that also need to be considered. Large bridges are often monuments and serve an aesthetic role to a city as well, one of the biggest problems with conventional barriers is that they tend to be unsightly. In fact, there have been arguments against installing barriers at some bridges, as people believe that such barriers would not really prevent suicides, it would only change the location and perhaps the method of the suicides while turning the bridges into eyesores. In most cases, barriers are installed regardless of the opposition, but it would be better for everyone if an alternative design could be built to look better while still being effective.

Fences are the ugliest forms of barriers and need to be pretty big to be effective. The Luminous Veil was a concept that was meant to be an alternative to regular fences, but the original idea was too expensive. The barrier was completed without being "luminous" at all and in 2015 the idea was replaced with LED lights on the fencing. While it might be better than having a normal fence, it still isn't exactly pretty.

Glass barriers are less sturdy, more expensive, difficult to maintain and could create unforeseen problems like glare and birds might injure themselves flying into them.

Safety nets seem to be the best option thus far, but people tend to get seriously injured when falling into these nets.

My idea is to create a v-shaped structure underneath the bridge, with an opening or mesh at the bottom. The opening at the bottom should be too small for a human or animal to fall through, just large enough for water and small debris to escape. The angle of the walls should be too steep to climb and extend far enough out so that a person can't jump past.

This should be an effective solution that does not have an impact on the views from the bridge and also is not an unsightly and large addition to the bridge. It would also be safer to land on the side and slide to the bottom than getting entangled in a safety net.

One problem I foresee with this idea is that it might act as a catch for junk and debris, but ultimately, it would not be any more difficult to keep clean than a sidewalk. Access points can be installed to allow workers to get to the bottom of the V to clean when needed. This would also allow medical personnel to reach injured people easier than the nets.

[1]chrome-extension://efaidnbmnnnibpcajpcglclefindmkaj/viewer.html?pdfurl=https%3A%2F%2Fsuicidepreventionlifeline.org%2Fwp-content%2Fuploads%2F2017%2F04%2FSuicide-Bridges-National-Suicide-Prevention-Lifeline-Position-2017-FINAL.pdf&clen=221962&chunk=true

[2]https://www.pasadenastarnews.com/2019/11/26/unsightly-but-necessary-pasadena-reacts-to-colorado-street-bridge-suicide-barriers/

[3]chrome-extension://efaidnbmnnnibpcajpcglclefindmkaj/viewer.html?pdfurl=https%3A%2F%2Fsuicidepreventionlifeline.org%2Fwp-content%2Fuploads%2F2017%2F04%2FSuicide-Bridges-National-Suicide-Prevention-Lifeline-Position-2017-FINAL.pdf&clen=221962&chunk=true

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Creative contributions

Line the fence with pigeon spikes from hell

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Darko Savic
Darko Savic Aug 03, 2021
Line the fence with double or triple rows of pigeon spikes to make climbing over a nightmare.

People who are determined to commit suicide will still do it, but they will do it elsewhere because bleeding out before the jump takes more guts (just like living does). Attach the spikes so that getting to a good jumping position is impossible.

Pigeon spikes are thin and possibly invisible from afar - making the bridge look less like a prison.




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General comments

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Darko Savic
Darko Savic3 months ago
I worry that such a structure underneath the bridge would make it look bad/bulky from afar.

The wind might be a problem too. The structure would act as a sail and get torn off unless it's heavily anchored, in which case it would take more material and weight.
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Spook Louw
Spook Louw3 months ago
Darko Savic I considered the added weight, but in comparison to the bridge itself, the addition should be minor. I feel like it shouldn't be affected by the wind too much, the shape should be aerodynamic enough, but I don't have the engineering knowledge to be sure of this.
As for the aesthetics, the V doesn't need to be much bigger than 3 metres from top to bottom, as long as the angle is too steep to climb out of and the edges are far enough out to prevent people from clearing it. On a bridge the size of the Golden Gate bridge, such an addition would be barely noticeable.
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Shubhankar Kulkarni
Shubhankar Kulkarni3 months ago
What material do you think this "V" should be made of? It should be cheap enough to place under all the existing bridges and soft enough to not morbidly injure a person who falls on it. Although it is a V, the person will fall on the sides of it from the bridge (at least 15 to 20 feet above it) and might injure themselves due to the impact. Also, the person will roll down to the bottom, and although there will be a mesh or an opening, they might hit on the other edge of the "V", hurting themselves. The material should also withstand snow, rain, and heat from the Sun. Also, if the Sun has heated the V, will that heat cause burns on the person falling on it? I know metal does that.
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Spook Louw
Spook Louw3 months ago
Shubhankar Kulkarni A coated metal should work fine if it does not add too much weight to the structure, falling would hurt but it would still be better than hitting the ground or water much further down and it would not present the risk of entanglement that the nets do. The metal also won't get any hotter than the bridge itself, so a person falling on it shouldn't really be in danger of serious burns.
I agree, hitting the side and sliding down won't be a soft landing, but it would make it much easier for emergency services to reach the person, as they could simply go down and walk right up to the patient.
The most effective solution would be to just completely wall off all bridges, but this idea allows for people to keep the view from the bridge.
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Shubhankar Kulkarni
Shubhankar Kulkarni3 months ago
Spook Louw Agreed. You may have thought about it but how about using a "V" with a broader base like a "U"? The sides of a "U" are not appropriate since they won't catch the person falling. On the other hand, the bottom of a "V" seems like a point where the person may get injured. So, a "V" with a "U"-like bottom will be more appropriate, I think.
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