April 6, 2021 11.40 am This story is over 37 months old

Tragedy “unlike anything seen before” means Humber Bridge footpath must remain closed

The Humber Bridge board explains the decision

By Local Democracy Reporter

The Humber Bridge Board has defended its decision to close the footpaths on the bridge, after six people died there in just one month.

Despite spending £250,000 on suicide prevention measures every year, the Humber Bridge was forced to close its footpaths indefinitely this week, after a tragic string of six deaths in one month.

Six people, including a teenage girl from Willerby near Hull, lost their lives at the bridge between March 3 and April 3 this year, and it is estimated that over 200 people have died there since the bridge opened.

Residents demanded action against the recent influx of deaths, and a petition with almost 9,000 signatures was created to provide safety measures at the Humber Bridge.

The closure has initially been enforced with traffic cones and signage. There does not appear to be any other physical barrier in place at this time.

The footpaths along the side of the Humber Bridge have been closed indefinitely. | Photo: Glyn Drury / Geograph

Despite this, some have questioned the decision to close the footpath entirely, as it now means that cyclists will have to use the main road and it is unclear how pedestrians will cross safely.

A long distance cyclist YouTuber called Richard Lake made a video slamming the decision, claiming he was forced onto a busy dual carriageway as a result of the footpath ban.

The Humber Bridge Board have said, however that this measure was “the most immediate and effective way to prevent further incidents.”

A spokesperson from the Humber Bridge Board said: “We understand closing the footways has been a controversial decision that has not attracted universal support, but we would like to reassure the public that it has been taken as an emergency response to the unprecedented and deeply troubling events at the Humber Bridge over recent weeks.

“It is no secret that there has been a spate of people – mostly young people from the local area – who have decided to end their lives at the bridge.

The pedestrian footpaths have been a topic of debate for a number of years. | Photo: Fred Roberts / Geograph

“Closing the footways is the most immediate and effective way to prevent further incidents of this nature and this was our sole consideration when making the decision.

“As well as protecting emotionally distressed individuals, the measure has been implemented to protect our staff and the public. 

“When these tragic events occur, our staff are the first responders and have to deal with some extremely distressing and traumatic situations. We have a duty to minimise their exposure to such incidents to protect their mental health and wellbeing.”

The Humber Bridge footpath could yet open to commuters, though. | Photo: James Williams

The board went on to say that until the spike in deaths over the last month, suicide prevention measures at the bridge had been “largely effective.”

“The Humber Bridge Board currently spends a quarter of a million pounds each year on measures designed to prevent emotionally distressed individuals from ending their lives at the bridge.

“However, the recent tragic events are unlike anything we have previously dealt with and we are working closely with Public Health, local MPs, local authorities, emergency services, the Samaritans, Hull and East Yorkshire Mind and other stakeholders to fully understand them and assess the future risk. While this is ongoing, the footways must remain closed to the general public.  

“We are, however, looking at reopening access to commuters as soon as possible, to minimise disruption to those who cycle or walk to work over the Humber Bridge, and we are considering a range of measures to ensure the situation can be effectively managed once the footways fully reopen.”

If you have been affected by the themes in this story, or if you feel you need help, please visit the Samaritans website here.