Officially named the Prince Edward Viaduct, Toronto's Bloor Viaduct was built in 1919 by Edmund Burke (who also built the famous CHUM/CITY Building on Queen West).

The bridge carries traffic, the Bloor-Danforth Subway and the usual cables across the spectacular Don Valley. In ancient times, apparently, the Don River filled the whole valley, although only a trickle alongside the road, Don Valley Parkway, railroad and country club remains (and the guy selling flowers at the base of Pottery Road).

Burke was truly a visionary, in that he foresaw the growth of Toronto, and thoughtfully left two train-sized gaps in the concrete buttresses at each end... and eventually they did carry the trains, over 50 years later (in one of the most vertigo-inducingly spectacular subway rides, ever, quite a feat given all the other marvellous sights on the TTC)

Unfortunately, the bridge is mostly notorious for being the best place in the city to commit suicide off of, to the extent there are free phones to call for counseling on spaced along the bridge. Statistics revealed one depressed Torontonian hurling themselves into the abyss every 22 days, adding to the total of over 400 since the bridge's construction. So, they built a suicide prevention veil to stop this. The suicide veil is a large metal fence-style construct designed to make it impossible for someone to jump over the edge... sort of like a safety net.

What is particularly eerie about the 'fence' or suicide barrier lining the viaduct is the shape of the struts. I only recently passed over the bridge (as opposed to the usual journey beneath the road's surface) and was struck, on a late night 'blueline' bus, how terrifying that fence really is. All the struts are shaped like crosses leaning out into the open air! Row upon row of them line the pavement, a grim evocation of ancient times on the Appian Way. Is this intended as some kind of deep last-minute psychological prodding? After all, the Xian faith takes a poor view on suicide...

I returned just yesterday to visit the site in daylight. In such a context there is little mystery - the language of signs and symbols has been replaced by clear reality. A very prominent sign gives the number for a "distress line" above the phone at the west end of the viaduct. No unnerving cloud lingers from that first bleary, late-night pass. The plain steel struts, so cross-like and menacing at night, are revealed to be ordinary objects without overtones or character.

A close examination of the barrier itself caused me to wonder how such a thing could be effective - any determined jumper could easily squirm through and still make the plunge. Have millions of dollars been spent on the illusion of doing something about a problem without really addressing the source? I was left with more questions and idle speculation than anything else as I travelled further into the Don Valley in search of the Brickworks that particular day.

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