The Meaning of Means Restriction

28 03 2012

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Sometime in the fairly near future, Cornell will begin to install the safety precautions on the campus bridges. For the most part, I have avoided discussion about the proposed “means restrictions”. While technically an addition to the physical plant, they didn’t stand out enough for me to really discuss them in great detail. Which isn’t to say the reasoning behind their construction isn’t very important. Or that the process involved in their design went smoothly, since the architecture firm designing the add-ons became embroiled in internal conflicts.

But anyways, as they have run the planning board gauntlet at this point and their construction is imminent, I figured it wouldn’t hurt to share some of the proposed designs:

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Some of the bridges, like the Stewart Avenue and Thurston Avenue bridges over Fall Creek, have means restrictions that basically consist of some metal bars extending out from the supporting arches with some nets rigged on top. Others, such as the Suspension Bridge shown above, are a bit more creative. I used to walk over this bridge virtually every day, so seeing it cocooned doesn’t appeal to my aesthetic senses.

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For the most part, bridges that are considered iconic or to have iconic views are left with few visual obstructions above level. For instance, the Stewart Avenue bridge over Cascadilla Gorge. For those who enjoyed looking through the slats into the churning waters 100 feet below, it looks like those views will be only partially obstructed. I for one discovered the best way to find out if someone has a previously unmentioned bridge phobia is to attempt to have them walk over this bridge, and then when they freeze up halfway, walk them through as they clench their eyes shut and shuffle forward while you hold their hand. That was only time my mother ever visited Cornell outside of my graduation.

Looking through the full set of documents, it would appear the cost of the “means restrictions” comes out to just under $4.9 million, and all construction projects are expected to last two months. Will it bring an end to the gorge jumpings? If the distraught individual has to work harder to do it, perhaps. Falling 15 feet into a stainless steel mesh net probably isn’t going to do any favors to ones health, but at least it won’t kill them. Will it bring down the suicide rate? Debatable. Studies have shown it can decrease or go unchanged. But given the all the bad press that Cornell has received, and the ongoing $180 million lawsuit from a parent of one of the deceased, I suppose Cornell can’t afford to sit on its hands.


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