British Columbia

Minister reinforces position on bridge closure

The B.C. transportation minister says Vancouver police should learn from their counterparts in San Francisco how to handle people disrupting traffic on busy bridges.

Mental health organization says police did the right thing

B.C. Transportation Minister Kevin Falcon was one of thousands of motorists caught in the gridlock during the shutdown of the Second Narrows bridge on Canada Day. ((CBC))

The B.C. transportation minister says Vancouver police should learn from their counterparts in San Francisco how to handle people disrupting traffic on busy bridges.

Kevin Falcon said it's unacceptable that the Ironworkers Memorial Second Narrows Crossing was completely shut down for six hours on Canada Day while police tried to talk to an apparently distraught woman.

"I was just in San Francisco recently and I can tell you they have lots of problems with the Golden Gate Bridge but they don't shut down the entire bridge to deal with these incidents," Falcon told CBC News Thursday.

Bridge closures backed up traffic on West Georgia Street in downtown Vancouver on Tuesday. ((CBC))

The Vancouver Police Department closed the Second Narrows bridge, which spans Burrard Inlet, linking the city and the North Shore, at around 1 p.m. Tuesday. During the bridge closure, the only alternate route, across the Lions Gate Bridge, was disrupted by at least two traffic accidents, causing huge backups on roads approaching both bridges.

Mary Currie, a spokesperson for the Golden Gate Bridge, said San Francisco police usually close the curb lane of the six-lane bridge when there are disruptions on the bridge.

"It's usually a fairly brief closure," Currie told CBC News in a telephone interview Thursday.

A distraught woman on the Ironworkers Memorial Second Narrows Crossing prompted the closing of the bridge for six hours Tuesday. ((Global TV))

"We also have access on the open sidewalk so we have some room to be able to work with persons that may be contemplating suicide without closing the entire roadway down," she said.

Vancouver police said Wednesday that the closure was necessary because a person's life was at stake and noise from the traffic would have made it difficult for negotiators to talk to the soft-spoken woman. Police got her to safety and got her some help.

The head of a B.C. mental-health organization said he is disturbed by the transportation minister's remarks.

Falcon was one of thousands of motorists caught in the gridlock on Canada Day.

"He [Falcon] sounded like a frustrated motorist and not a leader, in my point of view," said Darrell Burnham, executive director of Coast Mental Health Foundation.

Burnham said police did the right thing.

"I'm sure her [the woman on the bridge] family and friends are thankful that police controlled the scene as in any situation. It's unfortunate that a whole bridge was closed down, but [police] made the priority saving a life."

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