UC Berkeley News
Media Advisory

UC Berkeley Media Advisory

UC Berkeley engineering students to showcase Golden Gate Bridge suicide barrier designs

19 May, 2005

ATTENTION: Reporters covering development of a Golden Gate Bridge suicide barrier

Contact: Sarah Yang
(510) 643-7741

Engineering students from the University of California, Berkeley, will present three models of Golden Gate Bridge suicide barriers at a reception sponsored by the Psychiatric Foundation of Northern California. The models were created as part of an undergraduate course taught by Robert Bea, UC Berkeley professor of civil engineering.

The student models are not part of the formal design and environmental studies expected to be undertaken, pending funding, by the Golden Gate Bridge, Highway and Transportation District. Last month, the Metropolitan Transportation Commission allocated $1.6 million toward the design and environmental studies of a possible suicide barrier for the bridge. An additional $400,000 is still required from sources outside the district to fully fund the studies.

5:30-7:30 p.m., Wednesday, May 25. The event comes two days before the 68th anniversary of when the Golden Gate Bridge first opened to the public.

Pierotti Pavilion, ground floor of the St. Francis Hospital, 900 Hyde St., San Francisco

The engineering students will showcase their designs before an audience that will include:

  • Friends and relatives of people who have jumped off the Golden Gate Bridge, including Ray and Mary Zablotny, the parents of a teenager who committed suicide Feb. 1, 2005.
  • Several Golden Gate Bridge district officials.

The goal of the civil engineering undergraduate course is to teach students to incorporate real-life constraints — including cost, environmental regulations and politics — into design proposals for engineering projects. This year's students are building upon the work done by predecessors who took the course in 1998. That year, the project team concluded that a suicide barrier for the Golden Gate Bridge could be both effective and attractive.

This year, the project had a personal motivation for one of the four students on this year's team.

"I had a cousin who committed suicide in 2001," said Douglas Wahl. "She didn't jump from a bridge, but that experience prompted me to think about what goes through people's minds when they're thinking about killing themselves. Suicide is often an impulsive act. If we can take away the means to easily complete the act, such as by creating a barrier on a bridge, we can often get people past that suicidal state."


NOTE: Media wishing to attend this reception should R.S.V.P. to Paul Muller at the Psychiatric Foundation at (415) 643-9506 or Sarah Yang at UC Berkeley Media Relations at (510) 643-7741. Broadcast reporters should contact Julie Huang at (510) 642-6051 or juliehuang@berkeley.edu.


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