UKC

/ Protecting people from themselves

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teh_mark on 08 Mar 2018

In the news recently was the unfortunate story of a student in Manchester drowning in the Rochester Canal following a night out. A petition has since been created demanding that the canals of Manchester are fenced off to prevent the fairly regular deaths of drunks people drowning in them.

Is it reasonable to expect people to be protected from themselves when they get themself into a state of incapability through drink - especially at the expense of another group of people (boaters in this instance)? It was implied the gentleman in question fell from a lock gate; if we fence the locks off and a boater subsequently falls and dies as a result of the lock now being difficult to use, who is morally responsible for their death?

Interested to hear everyone's thoughts.

Pursued by a bear - on 08 Mar 2018
In reply to teh_mark:

Some people take a long time to learn that actions have consequences.  Whilst the death of anyone in such circumstances is profoundly regrettable, there is only so much you can do to stop people doing daft things. Put up some very visible signs, in pubs and bars as well as at the side of the canal, and otherwise leave it be.

T.

Timmd on 08 Mar 2018
In reply to teh_mark:

I'm thinking most/all of these deaths mightn't happen if people didn't wander home while drunk by themselves, making me think people need to look after one another while drunk a little bit. It can be hard to do when things go random, but some people manage to. 

I guess some kind of chain link arrangement strung between bollards could be put up, as a waist height deterrent which still allowed pretty easy access, but you can't save everybody from themselves in the end. 

As well as the signs in bars warning of the dangers, something about not leaving friends to make their way home alone might be a good thing too.

Edit: I've already seen some kind of social  media whatsit about not leaving drunk friends to went their way home alone. Stoned people are fine, they can just take a while to get somewhere.

Post edited at 12:59
2
Baron Weasel - on 08 Mar 2018
In reply to teh_mark:

Estimates put deaths linked to Austerity at 120,000 and yet the mainstream news concentrates on a man falling into a canal and a Russian being poisoned. We also have a holocaust going on in Syria with innocent children being blown up every hour and again it's largely ignored by MSM. Obviously things have been tragic for the canal man and the Russian and their friends and families, but in the grand scheme of things I do find myself asking why is it even news?

3
Rigid Raider - on 08 Mar 2018
In reply to teh_mark:

It's the Rochdale canal and it looks as if the lad was trying to walk across the lock gates, close to Harry Hall Cycles, here: https://www.google.co.uk/maps/@53.4743576,-2.245851,100m/data=!3m1!1e3

 There's a lot of nightlife and the lock gates offer a quick crossing in that area but the beam is narrow, awkward and might have been icy.  If you fell in late at night, if you didn't gasp with the cold and drown straight away you wouldn't be able to get out. It would be impossible to protect the canals with fences. 

A tragedy for the family, my own son is 19 and a student right in that part of town but he mostly rides around on Mobikes.

paul_the_northerner - on 08 Mar 2018
In reply to teh_mark:

 

If they are drunk enough to fall in a canal they are probably drunk enough to trip on a kerb and smash their head in.

A better response would be stopping people getting so drunk that they aren’t capable of looking after themselves. But for some reason its socially acceptable to the point that people are considering putting up fences to reduce its impact. 

 

Post edited at 12:59
DerwentDiluted - on 08 Mar 2018
In reply to teh_mark:

Fence off those dangerous mountains too, stop those reckless climbers going off, intoxicated by the sight of a few snowflakes.

Oh and roads, ferchrissake do you know how many people get killed on those?

And the sea. Jeez you can drown in the sea but idiots still go swimming and paddling in it.

And don't even get me started on ladders.

Or stairs.

 and lions. 

Timmd on 08 Mar 2018
In reply to Baron Weasel:

It's the old quote about '1 death is a tragedy, 1000000 are a statistic', it's paraphrased and I forget who said it, but it seem to ring true, to do with what people can absorb or identify with. There almost seems to be a point beyond which we can't grasp the reality of things, which makes it harder to emotionally engage (when we arguably still should - if we do with other events).

Post edited at 13:04
bedspring on 08 Mar 2018
In reply to teh_mark:

There was a debate on this subject on Radio Manchester Mike Sweeney Show, with some wailing something must be done and others that people should look out for themselves.

My thought is that nowadays we are not used to people dieing. At one time you would have had siblings or aunts and uncles and all sorts die, but now due to longer life expectancy, better medical science, safer cars and working practices and the dreaded Elf and Safety and the like, less people are dieing.
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-43159823
 

So when someone does die, its something we are just not used to and we make a big palaver about it.
So people are going to die, accidents will happen and if you get pissed and bugger about on the steps of a canal on one of the coldest nights for a long while, then sadly that accident may happen to you, and there is nowt we can do about it.

 

Timmd on 08 Mar 2018
In reply to bedspring:

> So people are going to die, accidents will happen and if you get pissed and bugger about on the steps of a canal on one of the coldest nights for a long while, then sadly that accident may happen to you, and there is nowt we can do about it.

Yes, my thoughts about chain links between bollards was more of an 'it's a possibility' than a serious suggestion. I've noticed women don't seem to be the ones (generally) who end up going home alone and falling into canals in Manchester, they tend to be the ones who makes sure one another get a taxi safely home (for obvious reasons).  

Post edited at 13:14
teh_mark on 08 Mar 2018
In reply to Rigid Raider:

A tragedy for the family indeed, and they have my sympathy. 

If you've fallen into a full lock and have managed to survive the immediate gasp reflex, I'd have thought it wouldn't be too difficult to get to the lock ladder and climb out - obviously assuming a capable sober person who can see the lock ladder or knows it's there. Falling into an empty lock, well I'd imagine you're more likely to break your leg on the exposed cill first and foremost, and/or KO yourself. Obviously more of a problem. The railing arrangements on lock gates is nearly always arranged so that the railing is on the canal side, and so from either gate you're most likely falling into the lock rather than the canal. A minority of gates on the Grand Union have railings on both sides, and it always puzzled me as to why this isn't a more common arrangement.

Of course that's all irrelevant speculation; he didn't make it out, and a fair number of people before him also haven't made it out. It's an unnecessary and pointless waste of life, but the distal cause is drinking oneself to stupor and I think more people need to recognise that if one takes it upon themself to drink to such a state, they hold ultimate responsibility for the outcome.

And while we're there, perhaps we need to question why getting utterly 'ed is seen as a valid way to behave.

Chris Harris - on 08 Mar 2018
In reply to teh_mark:

The abdication of personal responsibility. 

One of the defining characteristics of modern society. 

 

teh_mark on 08 Mar 2018
In reply to bedspring:

> My thought is that nowadays we are not used to people dieing.

That I very much believe to be true.

stevieb - on 08 Mar 2018
In reply to paul_the_northerner:

> If they are drunk enough to fall in a canal they are probably drunk enough to trip on a kerb and smash their head in.

> A better response would be stopping people getting so drunk that they aren’t capable of looking after themselves. But for some reason its socially acceptable to the point that people are considering putting up fences to reduce its impact. 


Agreed.

One option would be to enforce the existing law prohibiting alcohol being served to the intoxicated. This would probably lead to a reduction in accidents, street violence, domestic violence, chronic and acute illness, but we have to decide as a society that we want to make this change.

teh_mark on 08 Mar 2018
In reply to DerwentDiluted:

> Fence off those dangerous mountains too, stop those reckless climbers going off, intoxicated by the sight of a few snowflakes.

Well, quite. Or more pertinently, when the couple looking over the top of Stanage slip and fall off the edge of the crag. Or when the man in trainers on the Pyg Track in February discovers why we invented crampons and axes.

Hysterical? For sure. Thin end of the wedge? Probably not. But it is a slow creep towards being absolved of all responsibility.

Big Ger - on 08 Mar 2018
In reply to teh_mark:

Can we fence off all rivers, and, while we're at it, the sea....

I forgot! Cliff faces!! That South West Coast Path is going to have to go.

toad - on 08 Mar 2018
In reply to teh_mark:

It's part of a more general attitude to canals - they are a desirable aesthetic feature as far a property prices go, but god forbid anyone interacts with them - make it impossible to move between town and footpath, restrict mooring or boat movements. Make them pretty to look at, but ensure it's a passive experience.

Same probably is true of mountains. Go on a coach trip, but don't dare walk amongst  them

deepsoup - on 08 Mar 2018
In reply to teh_mark:

> That I very much believe to be true.

I am not so sure.  Your profile says you're 28.  When I was in my 20s, a while ago, I too was not used to the idea of my peers dying so I don't think that's new.  Everybody feels immortal when they're young. 
(And I still am - so far!)

teh_mark on 08 Mar 2018
In reply to deepsoup:

I'll admit I've had very little exposure to death personally, but I quite strongly believe that that is the case. I was actually discussing it quite recently with a friend after another of these types of accident. It's quite clear to me that we're not very accepting of death in current times, and I think that's very negatively affected how people cope with it when it does happen.

Being a pessimistic sort of person it's something I've considered at length in terms of mountaineering: am I OK with the idea that I might die in the mountains, and how would my family deal with that? I suspect not very well.

nniff - on 08 Mar 2018
In reply to teh_mark:

Someone is suing Bristol City Council because a family member rode a bike into the docks and drowned.  Neither a hidden hazard, nor a new one.  Come to that, it's not a hazard either.  

Rigid Raider - on 08 Mar 2018
In reply to teh_mark:

Crossing those lock gates is a tricky job and requires presence of mind, dexterity and confidence in body weight and foot placement. Attempting a crossing with more than a couple of pints inside you would be asking for trouble. 

An aunt of mine decided to undertake some genealogical research and was shocked to discover two uncomfortable facts: first that the Wiltshire branch of the family had not always been Roman Catholics and had at some time been Methodists - how ghastly! Secondly that two great-great grandparents had drowned in the River Avon when going out to the privvy in the night blind drunk, aiming off too far to one side, missing the privvy and falling into the river, which flows swiftly through Salisbury.  

Post edited at 14:32
deepsoup - on 08 Mar 2018
In reply to teh_mark:

> I'll admit I've had very little exposure to death personally

As had I at your age*, which is rather my point.  This is not new.

* - this in spite of myself and my peers engaging in what you might call "risk taking" behaviour - mountaineering in your case, I had yet to discover climbing but I and most of my friends rode motorbikes and in retrospect made some very poor choices.

To see a significant change you would have to go further back to my parents' and their parents' generation, to a time when war was a common first-hand experience and then recent living memory (as opposed to mere 'statistics' seeing horrors such as Syria and the Yemen on telly, when they do get a mention, that are too mind-bogglingly awful to fully comprehend).

Further, to suggest that it is a recent change reflecting the beginning of a long-term trend smacks of hubris honestly.  We are beginning to see life spans fall in the UK for various reasons discussed at length in lots of other threads here.  To pick something less erm..  political that is likely to make a big difference in the relatively near future, we are in danger of finding antibiotics very much less effective than they have been and may begin to see deaths from infection again in a way that hasn't been common since my grandparents were young.

Edit to add: I'm not that old, by the way, only just over 50.

Post edited at 14:52
deepsoup - on 08 Mar 2018
In reply to nniff:

> Someone is suing ..

As evidence that the world has gone mad, I think you would need to cite an example of someone who has successfully sued and won their case.  Can you post a link?  It might be interesting to look back on this and see how it turned out.

nniff - on 08 Mar 2018
In reply to deepsoup:

It's a current case.  I'll see if i can find a reference

teh_mark on 08 Mar 2018
In reply to deepsoup:

> To see a significant change you would have to go further back to my parents' and their parents' generation, to a time when war was a common first-hand experience and then recent living memory (as opposed to mere 'statistics' seeing horrors such as Syria and the Yemen on telly, when they do get a mention, that are too mind-bogglingly awful to fully comprehend).

Oh, that I'm fully aware of. I don't mean to imply that I think it's a very recent trend, more a slow long-term trend that we're not at the beginning of. On the subject of war I think it's most visibly shown in our attitude to our Armed Forces. Every soldier's death is a senseless and avoidable tragedy, the viewpoint partially reflected (amongst other far more valid reasons) in the public discomfort at the idea of deploying our troops to any conflict in which they may be hurt. That's the feeling I get, anyway. It's another thing I've thought about in some depth recently, having been about to join the Army up to the point that I broke myself.

That's just my feeling anyway.

The New NickB - on 08 Mar 2018
In reply to teh_mark:

There have been a surprising number of deaths in Manchester canals in the last 10 years, around 90. So much so that some believe there is a serial killer, nicknamed the Manchester Pusher operating in the city. Some of the environments around the canals could be better, but fencing certainly isn’t the answer.

 

teh_mark on 08 Mar 2018
In reply to Rigid Raider:

> Crossing those lock gates is a tricky job and requires presence of mind, dexterity and confidence in body weight and foot placement.

Yup. It's fair to say that when I crossed locks on a regular basis, I was more concerned about falling into a lock singlehandling than I was of falling off rock. The double railing style of lock gates really does make a difference, they feel far more secure than the ones railed only on one side. They're quite rare though, for what reason I do not know.

Timmd on 08 Mar 2018
In reply to The New NickB:

> There have been a surprising number of deaths in Manchester canals in the last 10 years, around 90. So much so that some believe there is a serial killer, nicknamed the Manchester Pusher operating in the city. Some of the environments around the canals could be better, but fencing certainly isn’t the answer.

I remember seeing a programme on TV about the theory of the Manchester Pusher, which is what set me thinking that they (nearly) all seemed to be men who fall in and drown. So it's not the canal that's the problem, but seemingly behaviour with alcohol and how young men look after one another, or don't always. A friend of a friend from my teenage years fell into a canal and drowned when in his twenties, down south I think, and he was by himself as far as people can tell.

Post edited at 15:20
jkarran - on 08 Mar 2018
In reply to teh_mark:

I'm going to skip who's responsible because frankly it doesn't really matter much.

In most towns there are certain features which are disproportionately hazardous: rail crossings, busy junctions, crags, water etc. In York it's a couple of sections of riverside walk that kill a few people per year. Yes they're usually drunk adults who should know better and it's all well and good arguing they shouldn't be so drunk but it's a city center river, there will be drunk people near it, some of them will fall in, it's hard to get out, some of them will die. A railing needn't be obtrusive and it obviously won't save everyone, many hazards remain but for relatively little cost (money, convenience or aesthetic) perhaps one or two lives per year could be saved. It's been discussed for years and never built.

jk

felt - on 08 Mar 2018
In reply to Chris Harris:

> The abdication of personal responsibility. 

> One of the defining characteristics of modern society. 

What about the Greeks and their gods? Or the concept of inshallah? Seems to be a defining characteristic of many human societies, if not all.

Fate. Now ain't she a fickle maiden?

Then again, they say that the very idea of a person is a modern confection, so you might indeed be right.

Rigid Raider - on 08 Mar 2018
In reply to teh_mark:

If city councils had the cash to spend on railings, you can be sure that somebody would find a way past them and drown. I'd be willing to bet that in councils' view, to erect railings is a legal admission that you know there's a danger and are therefore taking responsibility for people's safety.

1
The New NickB - on 08 Mar 2018
In reply to Rigid Raider:

I believe there is money and desire to improve the Canal environment in that area, through CityCo the Business Improvement District, but again I doubt railings are the answer.

paul_the_northerner - on 08 Mar 2018
In reply to jkarran:

 

> In most towns there are certain features which are disproportionately hazardous: rail crossings, busy junctions, crags, water etc.

 

In these examples a common link between deaths caused by such hazards in town centres is alcohol. if it were people innocently going about their normal day and coming to harm then yes, I would agree that necessary steps should be taken to improve safety. However, if you are plastered and fall into the canal as a direct result of you being drunk then the issue is not the level of safely on the canal, road railway or whatever, it’s the drink.

if drink wasn't a major factor in an incident hotspot then certainly look at railings and stuff but its better to resolve the root cause.

jkarran - on 08 Mar 2018
In reply to The New NickB:

> I believe there is money and desire to improve the Canal environment in that area, through CityCo the Business Improvement District, but again I doubt railings are the answer.

You don't have to put something completely behind a 6ft security fence to save lives especially when the attrition rate is as high as it is in Manchester. Even something as simple as short sections of fence to make the longer safer route actually the shorter one or a simple chain 2-3ft back from the edge in the busier places. That can snap a stumbling drunk out of their little world (or fell/tangle them) for long enough to keep them out of the water. Many harbour walls have the same, it's trivially easy to pass intentionally but enough to keep most of the more vulnerable out of the water most of the time. There's a raucous waterside pub in town here with just that arrangement, the riverbank is stuffed with drinkers and drunks all summer, many sat on the floor dangling legs over the river wall, every now and then someone ends up in the water but they tend to be those who jump (and swim) rather than stumble (and drown). The stumblers mostly fall in and drown a bit downstream where there's no chain but still plenty of drunk foot traffic heading home along the river.

jk

teh_mark on 08 Mar 2018
In reply to jkarran:

The gentleman in question was crossing a lock though. I can't see how you can effectively fence locks off without making their operation more difficult and more hazardous for boaters.

jkarran - on 08 Mar 2018
In reply to paul_the_northerner:

I don't see the point in being judgemental. People drink, people die in drunken accidents. It's much quicker and easier to put up a railing than it is to change a culture. Doesn't mean we shouldn't consider doing both but there's no need for people to keep drowning unnecessarily while we wait for culture change.

We put railings at the roadside to stop people stepping or stumbling into traffic where they're at risk whether through drink, poor judgement or poor town planning. I don't see why we should treat rivers differently. Target the hotspots with simple effective measures, save some lives.

jk

The New NickB - on 08 Mar 2018
In reply to jkarran:

I think there are better alternatives. I would argue, I often do with Highways Engineers, that we put far too many barriers up on the highway.

Post edited at 16:57
Dax H - on 08 Mar 2018
In reply to teh_mark:

> The gentleman in question was crossing a lock though. I can't see how you can effectively fence locks off without making their operation more difficult and more hazardous for boaters.

Easy.  A fence along the top of the lock on each side with a slot to allow the lock beam to pass through.

Personally though I saw screw em. Get that pissed that you don't know what you are doing is a choice. Chose to take some responsibility. 

teh_mark on 08 Mar 2018
In reply to jkarran:

> We put railings at the roadside to stop people stepping or stumbling into traffic where they're at risk whether through drink, poor judgement or poor town planning. I don't see why we should treat rivers differently.

Because drivers don't make a habit of having to cross the railings in the course of using the roads. Roadside railings don't inconvenience anyone, lockside railings potentially make the lock hazardous to anyone trying to use it. There's simply not enough space alongside most locks to fence it off and leave enough room to be able to handle a boat if you're singlehanded.

jkarran - on 08 Mar 2018
In reply to teh_mark:

I disagree, I'm sure there are some very space constrained locks but I actually can't think of one off the top of my head. I don't know Manchester mind. Still my point is simple changes can improve safety and it is not to my mind good enough to simply say well people shouldn't be so drunk. They shouldn't but they are so you work to deal with that problem while also trying to tackle it at root.

Jk

jkarran - on 08 Mar 2018
In reply to The New NickB:

> I think there are better alternatives. I would argue, I often do with Highways Engineers, that we put far too many barriers up on the highway.

I agree, roadside fences have been overused in places, but where an unfenced busy stretch of water that can easily be fenced is killing several people a year I don't think it's acceptable to just shrug and blame the people who drown, it's a problem with a partial solution, one which can be removed if it turns out not to be a solution.

Jk

profitofdoom on 08 Mar 2018
In reply to Timmd:

> It's the old quote about '1 death is a tragedy, 1000000 are a statistic', it's paraphrased and I forget who said it

Stalin, reputedly. That is what I read anyway

deepsoup - on 08 Mar 2018
In reply to teh_mark:

> On the subject of war I think it's most visibly shown in our attitude to our Armed Forces. Every soldier's death is a senseless and avoidable tragedy, the viewpoint partially reflected (amongst other far more valid reasons) in the public discomfort at the idea of deploying our troops to any conflict in which they may be hurt.

There I think I would have to agree with you, it's an interesting point.

I didn't realise your recent injury was so um.. 'life changing' (in the sense that it has sent you down a different path).  I hope there will be a time, when you have long since made a full recovery, that you can look back on it and feel it was for the best.

 

teh_mark on 08 Mar 2018
In reply to deepsoup:

C'est la vie! Not much point in moping about it

Timmd on 08 Mar 2018
In reply to jkarran:

> I don't see the point in being judgemental. People drink, people die in drunken accidents. It's much quicker and easier to put up a railing than it is to change a culture. Doesn't mean we shouldn't consider doing both but there's no need for people to keep drowning unnecessarily while we wait for culture change. We put railings at the roadside to stop people stepping or stumbling into traffic where they're at risk whether through drink, poor judgement or poor town planning. I don't see why we should treat rivers differently. Target the hotspots with simple effective measures, save some lives.

> jk

I guess there might be an element of 'If people can't look after themselves...' behind people saying it's a daft idea. I'm guilty of the same thing to do with curb stones which shine red to stop smart phone users from stepping into traffic, but I agree. I do think smart phone users should look up more though.  

Post edited at 19:52
arch - on 08 Mar 2018
In reply to jkarran:

> I don't see the point in being judgemental. People drink, people die in drunken accidents. It's much quicker and easier to put up a railing than it is to change a culture. Doesn't mean we shouldn't consider doing both but there's no need for people to keep drowning unnecessarily while we wait for culture change.

> We put railings at the roadside to stop people stepping or stumbling into traffic where they're at risk whether through drink, poor judgement or poor town planning. I don't see why we should treat rivers differently. Target the hotspots with simple effective measures, save some lives.

> jk

Beachy Head. 

What would you propose for there ??

jkarran - on 08 Mar 2018
In reply to arch:

Significantly increased mental health service spending basically.

Jk

Post edited at 23:27
Pursued by a bear - on 08 Mar 2018
In reply to arch:

> Beachy Head. 

> What would you propose for there ??

I've not forgotten a post on here from some years ago; can't remember from who, can't remember how the discussion provoked the post. However, the gist of it was that tales from first responders to reports of Beachy Head jumpers was that when they arrived at the casualty, rather than finding someone peacefully at ease from the troubles that had driven them to this finality, they found someone that was in extreme pain, broken terribly from the fall but not immediately killed. The same post went on to note that they were indeed deceased before any appropriately significant medical help arrived, but that their last thirty minutes or so alive were spent in terrible, excruciating agony.

Putting that on a notice, or giving it some wider publicity, might reduce the numbers of people seeking an exit from life's distress by leaping from Beachy Head.

T.

Timmd on 09 Mar 2018
In reply to Pursued by a bear:

I vaguely remember it, somebody asked about ways of committing suicide, and before the thread got deleted, the pain of falling and landing from even relatively high up was mentioned.  I think being hit by a train being relatively similar in consequence was aired too. The mental health services have taken a hammering in this country, unfortunately. 

Post edited at 00:53
Ridge - on 09 Mar 2018
In reply to Timmd:

> ... the pain of falling and landing

I don't think the falling is particularly hurty in comparison with the landing bit.


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