I decided to take a look at the High Level Bridge’s new suicide prevention system. What I found does not impress me at all.
First and foremost, this is what the new suicide prevention fencing on the more-than-a-century-old High Level Bridge in Edmonton, Alberta looks like:
Alright, sure. It may not look the best, and it certainly has destroyed the beautiful views from the city’s highest and oldest bridge, but let’s be honest here. That is not an issue to bring up on a case that relates solely on being one of the most used places to commit suicide in our city. This article is not about how shitty the fence made the bridge look. No, I am not that shallow. It’s about so much more than that.
I saw a post on Twitter the other day that really got me curious. The tweet was a photo of Chris Hubick behind the brand new High Level Bridge barriers. I mean the dangerous side of the $3 million fence that was just installed to prevent suicide attempts. He got there with the utmost of ease. By simply bending down and going behind it.
Without further ado, here’s the tweeted photo in question:
This really pissed me off, and for more than one reason. A lot was going through my mind when I first laid eyes on this photo.
That was three days ago.
Since then, I’ve taken some time to take a closer look at the High Level Bridge and its new $3 million suicide prevention system, or “high tension fence.” I spent 5 minutes at the bridge, and my conclusion came quickly.
The City of Edmonton has really let us down on this project.
I get that it’s great that they quickly came to a conclusion when they noticed that suicide off of our High Level Bridge was turning into a serious concern, and quickly. It’s great.
What’s not so great however, is that they rushed to getting the project started, and then rushed again to get it completed.
What’s wrong with the new fencing system? Well for starters, there’s these:
Calculations were off.
The design is flawed.
Cyclists are pissed.
But that’s not even the worst of it. What really grinds my gears about this new “suicide prevention system” is the fact that…
Suicide is still very, very much possible.
How is it you can spend over $3 million of hard working tax payers’ money, and yet fail so miserably at a project that really, truly means a lot to such a high number of Edmontonians?
If the City of Edmonton wants to fix these problems, they’re going to have to do what?.. Yep, you guessed it: Use even more of our hard earned tax dollars. Wonderful. Just absolutely wonderful.
I will not tell you my personal views on our current city council team, but I will say this. I am not against how our mayor and councilors are running things in general. But this… This is very much not okay.
On Thursday, July 14th, I decided to take a closer look at the High Level Bridge for myself.
While I was there, I was lucky enough to experience a half-smile for a moment as I looked beyond the bridge and noticed this beautiful view.
Notice all of the people just relaxing and enjoying the view, or climbing the wooden stairs. Edmonton is beautiful.
Alright, back to the reality of this city’s failure of a suicide prevention system though.
Here’s what I saw when I first came up to the High Level Bridge from the north side, walking on the west sidewalk:
Straight away, I notice a very concerning problem. Why is it that the so-called ‘high tension wiring’ only starts shortly after before the final height of the main fencing? I put ‘high tension wiring’ in quotations because, I don’t know why, but the wiring is not nearly as tense as it should be.
I walk a bit closer to the corner pillar ahead:
Well, well, well. What do we have here?
It’s a massive damn gap between the tension wires and the original fencing.
Why? Why is this even a thing. Why is there a massive gap between the old fencing and the new fencing, and then loose tension wiring aside from that?
Also, did you know that the pillars themselves are nearly twice as thick as they were originally planned to be? This has caused havoc for Edmonton’s cycling community, especially considering the High Level Bridge is actually one of the most heavily used cyclist traffic lanes within the entire city of Edmonton. Just take a look at the [#YEGbike hashtag on Twitter], and you’ll see what I mean. [See further below for more information on the suicide prevention system causing more issues for cyclists.]
A shot from within the old fencing and the new tension fencing:
Can you see just how wide the gap is? This is the work of incredibly poor planning.
I would say that I am completely speechless, but this opinion piece clearly states differently.
While writing this article, I took one final look at the [#HighLevelBridge hashtag] on Twitter. I just came by this tweet. I did not notice these markings when I stopped by the High Level Bridge on July 14th. (I was either on the wrong side of the bridge, or I didn’t walk far enough ahead.)
— Micah (@caveatstercorum) July 10, 2016
I mean, are you kidding me right now? City council, you have got to be kidding me right now. This is just silly. This is just absolute embarrassment.
Numerous cyclists have already complained to city council about their bike handle bars getting caught on this new tension fence, causing them to fall off their bike and sustain injury.
Oh, and here’s something else to watch out for. Now, although this is completely illegal, it still happens, and far too easily, at that.
We need to make it much more difficult to be able to climb on top of the High Level Bridge, an area that is used solely for Edmonton’s streetcar – that of which is the highest in the world, according to [Mr. Iveson in a recent article published on his personal blog].
What’s stopping someone experiencing suicidal thoughts from climbing up to this level?
With all of that said, I will say this however. I am very pleased with council’s motion to add these help line phones to both ends of the bridge. These are just wonderful. I have zero complaints about these, so kudos to you all.
Also, the fact that these were allowed to be engraved into the sidewalk, is also a beautiful thing. Thank you for that as well, city council.
So to the students of Braemar school, thank you for the lovely inspirational quotes.
While writing this article, I stumbled upon a [brand new article] [less than two hours old as of this writing] by none other than our very own Don Iveson [Mayor of Edmonton].
In the article, Mr. Iveson writes:
On reflection, this is an example of what can go wrong when the City is in a hurry, which is something for us to continue to watch for.Don Iveson, Mayor of Edmonton
At the very least, he’s acknowledging his and the rest of council’s mistakes. Good on you, Mr. Iveson.
IN CONCLUSION — Now again, don’t get me wrong. I truly appreciate this city’s council taking this bridge’s suicide issue seriously, and with no hesitation, actually doing something about it. That’s great in and of itself. But the way that the whole project was conducted, from beginning to end? That… That is a definite problem, and I honestly hope that this city’s council starts to take Edmonton’s tax money more seriously in the future.
Don’t even get me started on the way that this city’s council has destroyed the LRT [light rail train] system for Edmontonians [Why can’t we have a Skytrain like Vancouver?], or how about that $24 million River Valley funicular system [basically a massive outdoor elevator]. I mean, come on. Let’s take things a little more seriously here please, shall we?
As you can see photographed above, this extremely old bridge is beautiful. Let’s please try to keep it that way.
Now, I’m not the only one pissed off about this whole ordeal aside from the cyclist community. In fact, you may even want to check out this [editor’s piece written up on Edmonton Sun] as well. A lot of good points made there, some of which are the same points made here.
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If you or someone you know suffers from deep depression, please call the Mental Health Hotline of Alberta at 1-877-303-2642.
NOTICE — The expressed thoughts written in this article are the personal opinion of Edmontonian [Jody Mitoma] and do not reflect the views or opinions of anyone other than his own.
Am I over exaggerating? What are your honest thoughts?