August 6, 2016 § 40 Comments
None of this happened overnight. John Forester got it all started in the 1970s when he laid out the theory behind riding a bike utilizing traffic laws applicable to other vehicles. Communities from Long Beach to Kalamazoo have shared their plans and their experiences with what it takes to change community attitudes towards bikes.
Advocates in LA like Don Ward, Dan Gutierrez, Eric Bruins, and Jim Hannon, and advocates in Michigan like Paul Selden are just a few of the people who have shown the way to cooperating with local government to make roads safer for bikes. The daily drumbeat of advocacy and activism in our local CABO forum relentlessly highlights the solutions to the problems we face.
Most importantly, the people who think the wages of cycling should be death, as enunciated by a local PV realtor recently, and the people who believe that cyclists should be banned and public roads should be privatized, are on the defensive. More to the point, they’re being routed as they stand on an isolated little spit of meanness and greed, heaping hatred on people for pedaling bicycles even as the waves of change gradually eat away at their last sandy redoubt.
The final piece of the puzzle, i.e. acceptance of safe cycling by every community, awaits. It’s not that far off, and the real progenitors for this final change are bike clubs. They are organized, they are community based, they are composed of long-time residents, they are mostly too tired from cycling to scream and yell, and their ass-conditioning means they can outlast any opponent in a city council sitting contest.
Here’s what you and your club have to do to make the revolution complete.
- Take a bike education course like Cycling Savvy that teaches you how to ride a bike in traffic.
- Get your club leaders to take a class.
- Make completion of a cycling in traffic class a condition for leading any club ride or being a board member.
- Ultimately make a cycling in traffic class a requirement for membership in your club.
- Establish a permanent community liaison in your club whose job it is to attend every city council meeting and/or traffic safety committee meeting that deals with anything bike-related. If your club encompasses multiple jurisdictions, establish multiple liaisons.
- Recruit other club members to join your liaisons on an ad hoc basis for various meetings so that there’s always a cycling contingent of 4-5 people to counterbalance the crazies.
- Start using cycling in traffic techniques on all your club rides; don’t back down because a few refuseniks prefer the gutter.
- Begin using cycling in traffic techniques on non-club group rides by discussing with the chain gang bosses beforehand. Cooperation is generally frowned upon in cycling, I know, but this actually matters, almost as much as who’s going to win the imaginary sprunt.
- Sponsor 3-4 cycling in traffic safety classes per year and make them available to the community, which includes law enforcement, local government, and local schools. Think of how much your club members spent on beer in 2016. For a few hundred bucks you could actually save a life or two.
- Make cycling traffic techniques at least as high a priority in every club meeting as the annual club bibs/jersey order. Ridiculous? Perhaps, but possible. Maybe you could lead off with, “We’re going to discuss a new jersey design for ride leaders who’ve taken the education course … “
The prophets are in from the wilderness and the unwashed and somewhat-washed cycling herds are ready to receive the message. Go forth and spread the seed, but spread it as traffic, controlling the lane.
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August 2, 2016 § 33 Comments
I always thought bike clubs were dumb. Why does anyone need an organization to ride a stupid bicycle, drink beer, and pedal around outdoors in your underwear? These things can all be done unaffiliated.
That’s why even though I’ve belonged to many clubs over the years, they’ve been racing clubs that got me a $5 discount on a pair of socks, a couple of free bottles, and the Always Promised But Never Delivered Race Reimbursements At The End Of The Year.
Your club is probably a lot better than the ones I’ve always belonged to, but it’s still dumb. I mean, think how goofy you would look if you went to dinner with your family and everyone was wearing identical clothes. Now multiply it times a hundred, and make it matching underwear worn outside. Really.
Also, you don’t need matching undies to make friends, although I certainly understand that there are situations in which it helps.
My outlook has changed, though. Over the years I’ve noticed that bike clubs really can have a purpose other than underwear coordination. One of those should be education. As I’ve noted before, the Old Ways Have Changed. Cycling is no longer a lunatic fringe activity where a few newbies join each year and are carefully disciplined by grizzled old-timers like Jack and Phil and Jeff who teach you the rules with sharp words.
The newbies are everywhere. They’re in your club. They are swirling around in traffic, mostly oblivious to how badly they can be hurt. Some of them may have even joined a club–your club–under the illusion that they’ll get some friendly instruction. (Note: Screaming “Hold your line!” followed by a wheel chop isn’t instruction.) Often, they assume that the skills they had at age 9, plus SRAM Rred and a bunch of carbon, are all they need to stay alive.
This is of course not true. The full carbon actually makes you go faster, and we all know what happens when you put lots of speed and money and carbon at the fingertips of not much skill and even fewer brains.
Since we can’t scream riding lessons anymore (I’m too old and tired, and the newbies mostly look like they know how to throw a right hook), what’s left is education.
It’s time for your club to assume the position and start teaching, and to do so formally. Why can riders join a club without mandatory training? Why can they join a club without classroom education? Why are we enticing people to be members of a fun activity that really isn’t any fun when you’re experiencing it through a breathing tube?
Our club held its first ever Cycling Savvy class for our members. It was my third time to take the class and I was absolutely electrified by it.
Over forty people showed up on a Saturday afternoon to, yes, learn how to ride a bike. Much pride was swallowed and surprise, much was learned. Following the lead of clubs like BCCC and the Long Beach Freddies, Big Orange has not simply made education available to its members, but it’s started down a path where education will be a requirement for membership. “Life over underwear coordination!” or something like that.
In addition, the club has taken the radical step of offering group ride training on its Sunday rides. This means rides with actual leaders who provide actual instruction based on many of the techniques taught in Cycling Savvy. My personal favorite technique is called “Control from the rear.” Pretty awesome, huh?
Whether you’re a race club, a riding club, or a baby seal club, if you’re pedaling a bike you need skills to survive. Implementing club-wide education doesn’t make you any more of a bike dork (or any less, I should add), but it makes cycling just a tiny bit safer. As Fireman pointed out, “Even if 90% of those dorks don’t get it, all you have to save is one life and suddenly it was all worthwhile.”
Cycling Savvy is offering a free course courtesy of the Orange County Wheelmen on August 4th. In typical cycling planning fashion, I got notice yesterday, but if you can make time for it, and if you belong to a club, and if you think making it home from the ride alive is a good thing, take a couple of hours out of your Thursday and invest it in the future. You can even wear your favorite garish underwear to the meeting if you need chamois time.
It’s something every underwear club in America could benefit from.
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July 27, 2016 § 24 Comments
The best way to attend a city council meeting, it turns out, is by doing a full-gas, 60-minute training crit immediately prior. That way your legs will be shattered and you will be grateful for the chance to sit, no matter how many hours it takes.
In the case of last night’s Palos Verdes Estates city council meeting, whereat we had gathered to support bike signage and oppose the naysayers who think that death is a reasonable “Darwinistic” penalty for cyclists who fail to follow all traffic laws, the main thing we had to do was sit.
And sit we did.
We sat through the Citizen’s Academy award ceremony. We sat through the cupcake-and-Snapple social which followed, well, we didn’t “sit” so much as we rushed the snacks and behaved as only cyclists do when presented free sugary food. We sat through the presentation on the attack on the water supply. We sat through the discussion of the Helicopter Noise Safety Committee. Most astonishingly and butt-painfully, we sat through the discussion of the dead elephant in the park retaining wall and turnaround with $70,000 engineering study for fire safety that the battalion chief said wasn’t needed and the $100,000 county grant and the $400,000 hot tub and the hammerheads.
By the time the council got to Item No. 7 it was almost 10:00 PM and the standing-room-only crowd had thinned to the hardy, relentless, grizzled, ass-toughened cyclist contingent for whom three hours seated on a plank was barely even a warm-up.
The council stared in horror at the 23 speaker cards piled in front of them, because with a 3-minute allotment for each speaker it meant that no one would get home before midnight. That’s when Delia Park proposed that, out of pity and mercy for unpaid city council, rather than subject them to 109 minutes of “I been bikin’ since … and as far as bikes is concerned I think … and iff’n you ast me … ” we would simply appoint Bearclaw to get up and speak for all of us.
I thought the mayor and a couple of the council members were going to cry out of gratitude, and even though they gave Bearclaw an extra two minutes to speak he wrapped the whole thing up nice as you please and the council voted:
- To pull down and throw away the evil and distasteful “Bike Laws Strictly Enforced” signs.
- To put up the beautiful and majestic “3 Feet It’s the Law” signs.
- To send the “Bikes May Use the Fuggin Lane” signs back to committee for further study.
I staggered out and pedaled home, immensely grateful to the city council and to each one of these people for showing up and democracying:
- Lane Reid
- Ivan Fernandez
- Bob Spalding
- Joey Cooney
- Patrick Noll
- Yasuko Davidson
- Seth Davidson
- Craig Eggers
- Joann Zwagermann
- Brent Davis
- Greg Seyranian
- Tom Duong
- Pete Richardson
- Don Wolfe
- Greg Leibert
- Delia Park
- Gigi Kramer
- David Kramer
- Kristie Fox
- Wendy Watson
- Chris Gregory
- Francis Hardiman
- Bruce Steele
- Michael Barraclough
- Kathryn Kempton
- Geoffrey Loui
- George Sefler
- Gerard Melling
If you’re bummed that you didn’t get to spend from 7:30 PM to 10:30 PM seated on a church pew hearing about hot tubs and dead elephants, there will be a next time, and it will be soon!
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July 26, 2016 § 27 Comments
I just got back from a three-hour meeting of the Rancho Palos Verdes traffic safety committee, where a group of resident numbnuts had thrown together a petition demanding that the city illegally ban cyclists from “their” .7-mile of roadway, and require “permitting” for group rides.
There was so much stupid to wade through that it’s impossible to sum it all up, so I’m just posting my meeting notes.
- Massive thank you to chair Jessica Vlaco, vice-chair Dave Kramer, and committee members Yi Hwa Kim, Henry Ott, and James Guerin. These people truly define community service and government by the people.
- Vice-chair Kramer (to city staff): Is it legal to ban bikes from a public roadway? City staff: No. [You’d think that would be the end of it, but noooooo … ]
- Local Moron #1: It’s dangerous to share the road so we should ban bikes!
- Local Moron #2: There are many collisions on Crest Rd. East!! [Sheriff Department has records for ZERO collisions there in the last five years.]
- Local Moron #3: Bikers have to ride so close to the edge of the road which is too narrow and dangerous!!
- Local Moron #4: All 76 homes in our gated sub-sub-subdivision of Rancho Palos Verdes Estates suffer from hazardous conditions caused by bicycles! There are no other roads up here! They train on weekends! They are hazardous for all! There’s no space! Cars can’t pass but motorists must pass! I almost hit one! There are numerous accidents here! Residents are held responsible for accidents! My friend’s nanny who is on vacation with the family now in Africa and can’t come was in a collision with a biker! The bike struck her car and it was the biker’s fault but he SUED HER!!! [Cf. sheriff’s records of no reported collisions.]
- Local Moron #5: This is a huge safety issue. I almost hit a cyclist!
- Local Moron #6: Each resident in our sub-sub-subdivision has at least two vehicles, not to mention our housekeepers, gardeners, nannies, and service worker people. Cyclists endanger all of us!
- Local Moron #7: There are cyclists who are not polite! They should hurry up!
- Local Moron #8: I spent an additional half hour getting home because I was stuck behind a peloton! Bikers are like people whose dogs crap on your lawn!
- Local Moron #9: I’m concerned about safety! Cars are big! It’s a blind corner!
- Local Moron #10: I’ve lived here 34 years. There have been 5 accidents! It’s out of control!
- Local Moron #11: I asked the guards to count bikers one weekend! There were 158!
- Local Moron #12: Some cyclists almost hit me! These are blind turns! There are no bikes on freeways! Public safety requires banning bikes! Many bikes ride four abreast every day it’s why we’re frustrated! City liability! This is an unsafe situation!
- Local Moron #13: My son almost failed his driver license test because he drove too slowly! And all those Orange outfit riders from Orange County on the Donut Run!
After being subjected to a perfect vacuum of fact and rational thought, the cyclists had their say. Mostly we were amazed at all the hatred, especially since we are the ones getting creamed and killed, not the angry NIMBYs in the sub-sub-subdivision with Palos Verdes Estates envy.
And of course the bikers made out with a few actual facts, such as:
- Banning bikes is illegal.
- There are no records of collisions along this deadly stretch of turrble deadly roadway.
- The law lets bikes take the full lane when it’s too narrow to share with a cager.
- You can fix this non-problem with sharrows, Bikes May Use the Fuggin’ Lane signage, 3-Feet It’s the Law signage, and citations for scofflaw motorists and cyclists.
- Anecdotal “deadly cyclist” stuff is crap; if you want to understand the roadway’s safety issues, commission an engineering study.
- If you’re so concerned about our safety, how come you never reached out to us?
- We’re not responsible for other riders, just like you’re not responsible for irresponsible cagers.
- And the best, by far, was Michael B.’s takedown: You people are so dumb and lazy that you didn’t even bother to check the law before you signed a petition demanding that the city violate it. Also, there’s a solution to pesky cyclists and it’s codified: Slow the fugg down.
- The real issue is out of control cars: 33 drivers have been cited for unsafe driving and not a single cyclist.
- Lumping all cyclists together is offensive and no different from lumping together people of an ethnic group.
- Best of all was Dave Kramer’s impassioned speech regarding law and the obligation of drivers to slow down and pass safely. The committee then voted to examine sharrows, BMUFL signage, lower speed limits, and an engineering study as ways to make the scaredy sub-sub-subdivision residents and their nannies feel safer.
Finally, one of the last local morons admitted that what they really wanted to do was to make the public road private and they intended to petition the state to give them the road. Such an amaze-balls power grab was great to see, because it proved what the angry invective suggested all along: The sub-sub-subdivision residents really just wanted to steal public land, perhaps in the hope that the extra square footage would make them feel better about not living in Palos Verdes Estates.
Best of all, putting the total lie to their claim that they were in it for “bicycle safety,” all of the resident maroons left after they’d vented and didn’t stick around for the real item on the agenda, which was approval of a work plan that included development of a bike safety master plan for the entire city. The minute it came to hard work, or cooperation, or understanding the other person’s point of view, or, you know, actual bike safety, they were long gone and venting on Facebag and NextDoor.
Frankly, their departure was awesome because a big contingent of bikers stuck around and requested that a subcommittee be developed for the bike safety master plan that included the voice of local cyclists.
Huge thanks to every cyclist who showed up. Barraclough, Leibert, Duong, Landes, Zwagermann, Cooper, Cooney, Loui, Kempton, Park, Richardson, White, Meyer, Phillips, Robertson, and about half a dozen other names that escape me made the marathon session and spoke up when it counted.
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July 22, 2016 § 38 Comments
Every once in a while I let my guard down and think positive thoughts. Recently, the city of Rancho Palos Verdes committed to developing a bike master plan through its traffic safety committee. I was at the meeting where that decision was made and it was awesome. Kumbaya and etc. and such.
Then further letting down my guard, the city of Palos Verdes Estates was receptive at the committee level and at the city council level to installing some Bikes May Use the Fuggin’ Lane signs. The vote occurs on July 27, so it’s not a done deal, but the process has been positive and invigorating.
Finally, when I was on the verge of recriminating myself as a crusty, distrustful, skeptical old shit and admitting that cagers really aren’t a bad lot, they’re simply people like you and me who happen to choose to lock themselves into inflammable steel boxes rather than pedal freedom machines, I got this happy note:
On Monday one agenda item for the TSC [in Rancho Palos Verdes] to discuss is whether to ban cyclists from the top of Crest Road between Ganado Drive and the domes. The city has received a petition with 100+ signatures from local residents requesting that. I doubt very much that this will pass since it is a public road. The petition claims that the road is unsafe for cyclists and there have been numerous accidents. They also asked if Big Orange has obtained a permit that indemnifies the city from liability. Here is a link to the agenda:
You have to admit this is pretty awesome. We actually have one hundred people who live in an exclusive neighborhood at the top of a hill overlooking the sea who are so concerned about cyclist safety that they have gotten a petition together to ask the city to appropriate public roads for private use.
You may think, “Hasn’t that been tried before?” and you may wonder “What happens when a group of crazies tries to take public property?”
You may even be surprised that a gang of rich cagers are so consumed with the safety of bicyclists that they’re willing to close public roads to bikes to protect us from ourselves, even though we’re convinced that riding our bicycles instead of riding the couch makes us happier, healthier people and better citizens.
This is one where, unfortunately for cyclists, the cagers are right. The best people to decide how to use a road are the ones who live near it. Having cyclists storm up and down Crest at all hours of the day (by the hundreds, if not thousands), having bikers hither and thither, and most importantly, having pedal pushers getting hurt on a road that is simply too dangerous for them as evidenced by the one or two crashes per year are all excellent justifications for closing a road to a particular type of traffic.
The standard that the residents have enunciated is a good one and makes for sound policy. Let’s review:
Close roads that endanger users.
Require groups who insist on dangerous road use to indemnify cities/counties against lawsuits stemming from injuries that occur there.
I will be attending the Monday, July 25 traffic safety meeting to wholeheartedly support this, and hope you will, too. In addition to closing Crest between Ganado and the radar domes, I will be making the following additional proposals for consideration by the committee using principles 1 & 2 above.
- Close the 405, 110, and 91 freeways. These roads see thousands of collisions and hundreds of casualties. To date there have been zero bicycle fatalities on any of these roads, so banning them to cars and opening them to pedestrians and cyclists makes sense and will protect millions of vulnerable cagers.
- Require every group of more than two people who use a roadway to buy comprehensive indemnification insurance, with immediate application to FedEx, UPS, and every business with more than two vehicles. Also include every household with more than two vehicles.
- Close every road in Rancho Palos Verdes to the type of vehicle that has the larger number of collisions, beginning with Crest Rd. between Ganado and the radar domes.*
- Since closure/banning are more desirable than improving conditions to make the roads safer, such as paving dangerous cracks and potholes, putting up Bikes May Use the Fuggin’ Lane signage, education, and law enforcement, the city of RPV should apply the closure/banning principle in all of its deliberations:
- Close the Pacific Ocean.
- Close the airspace above RPV and preferably the state of California.
- Close the insane asylum from which the petition signers have obviously escaped.
*Oops! That will mean closing it to cars! Sorry!
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July 21, 2016 § 4 Comments
Every now and again someone comes up with a great idea to help promote cycling in SoCal. These ideas usually founder because they are a) unprofitable b) unprofitable c) extremely difficult to maintain.
Although it’s too early to proclaim it a financial success, Brian Co has started an ambitious podcast project at socalcyclist.org. This fills a huge void for news and quality information about what’s going on in the SoCal bicycling world. With fourteen episodes since its debut on April 20, the project is going strong.
Better than print, the podcast format lets you download each episode and listen to it when it’s convenient. I spoke with Brian about his idea and he said, “There are no local cycling news podcasts. If you want to listen to a one-hour symposium on disc brakes, sure, that’s being done. But local bike news? Nothing. So I decided that’s what I’d do.”
The results are of astonishingly high quality. Brian uses state of the art recording equipment and he goes all-out to put together programs that will interest anyone who cycles in Southern California.
Best of all, he’s creating a model for every other locality in the world that wants to showcase the very best regarding its cycling community. Give it a listen. You will not regret it!
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July 16, 2016 § 43 Comments
Few people are as infuriating as John Forester. I’ve never met him but I have read countless of his commentaries on bicycling safety. To call him a thorn in your side is like calling a lobotomy a “minor procedure.”
John is a real old dude and I doubt that he rides a bike much, if at all. I’ve certainly never heard of him showing up on a group ride. That’s kind of weird because all he ever writes about is bikes and bike safety.
Not only that, he has an unparalleled ability to aggravate. When he puts pen to paper, there is an edge to his writing that just pisses you off. I’ve often tried to figure out what that edge is. It’s not the commentaries that sometimes spill over into ad hominem attacks, although that’s part of it. What really gets me is his tone, which is the tone of “STFU, I’m right and I know it, and if you had half a brain, you’d know it, too.” Takes one to know one, I guess.
John was the subject of a hit piece in the Los Angeles Times the other day in which the author announced that John’s philosophy of “vehicular cycling” was officially dead. If you wanted to sum up John’s approach to bicycling in traffic, it’s this: Bike fare best when they act and are treated as drivers of vehicles.
In other words, for us to be safe we don’t need bike lanes or protected cycle tracks or anything other than the roads we currently have, along with a set of equally applied rules. The hit piece essentially says that John got it wrong. The best way to boost ridership is by shunting riders out of traffic and into bikes-only infrastructure. Create a parallel, separate-but-equal system (that conveniently costs billions), and you will have more cyclists and fewer car-bike casualties.
While I loves me a good hit piece, and while John is a super annoying, crotchety old curmudgeon, I don’t loves me a shit piece. And I especially don’t loves me a shit piece when it’s dumping on a super annoying, crotchety old curmudgeonly sonofabitch who happens to be right.
Not simply right, but one-hundred-fucking-percent right. The language may have changed from “vehicular cycling” to “sharrows” and “BMUFL–Bikes May Use the Fuggin’ Lane,” but Forester’s principles are as ironclad and correct as they were when he first proposed them.
Riding off to the edge, stuck in the gutter, dodging trash and glass and cracks and manhole covers and used dildos (yes, Knoll once found a giant pink dildo on PCH) makes cyclists less visible and much more likely to get clipped, right-hooked, rear-ended, or otherwise hurt. John’s principles embody the Savvy Cycling course and they give cyclists control over what happens to them in traffic. Unlike the false perception of safety afforded by bike lanes, BMUFL gives cyclists the real protections of a) being seen, and b) not being treated as inferior road users, but rather as vulnerable ones deserving of special attention and care by bigger, faster, deadlier cars.
In his inimitably annoying way, Forester demolishes the shit piece in the LA Times with diamond hard prose, not a comma out of place, relentless, unapologetic, with the force of an artillery shell hitting a cardboard box. To wit:
“Pitting cars against cyclists” is the first lie. Vehicular cycling holds that motorists and cyclists have equal right to use the roads. Is that pitting cars against cyclists? The logic is all wrong: cars are obviously not motorists. So are the politics; making sure that black people have the same legal rights as white people cannot, justly, be held to be pitting blacks against whites. Besides, the only cycling alternative to advocating legal equality was accepting Motordom’s motorist supremacy policy and its Jim Crow laws that demeaned cyclists. There’s no doubt about it: I stood up for cyclist equality and fought motorist supremacy.
The claim that vehicular cycling had any dominance in American cycling policy at any time in the past is the second lie. At no time, at least since 1925, have cyclists been officially considered equal to motorists, and they were made legally subservient to motorists in the 1944 Uniform Vehicle Code. The idea that American governments had a policy that cyclists were legally equal to motorists is just plain false. If any jurisdiction differed in that, it certainly had insignificant effect. At all times (with maybe some insignificant exception) cyclists were legally inferior to motorists and instructed to be subservient to them.
The argument that American governments supported cyclist equality because they failed to put up money for bikeways is another lie. They failed to fund bikeways because they didn’t care to spend money on bicycling facilities, not because they supported vehicular cycling. While some bikeway advocates make that argument, they fail to produce the official budget arguments stating the support for cyclist equality.
The fact that American governments now fund bikeway construction demonstrates only that America has now decided to fund the bikeways that Motordom has always demanded to instutionalize motor supremacy.
It is correct that the bikeway funding by American governments is now also supported by bicycle advocates in a program designed to accommodate fearful, traffic-incompetent, rules of the road rejecting cyclists with only the maturity of an untrained eight-year-old. That program has won its political battle and is now irreversible. But the political victory does nothing to change the content of the program. What it means is that those of us who reject the emotionalism and anti-science bases of that program have the legal means to refuse its imposition upon us simply because it is trying to unlawfully impose Motordom’s selfish motorist supremacy upon us. Rejecting Motordom and teaching vehicular cycling to all we can reach, and maintaining our legal opposition to Motordom’s motorist supremacy policy, are the two tasks to which we should devote ourselves.
John’s methods have made me a better rider, kept me alive and unhurt longer, taught countless motorists about how to safely deal with cyclists, and inspired thousands of people to ride bikes with confidence and competence.
If the price for that is a cranky old dude yelling at people from his porch and shaking his fist at passing cats, it’s well, well, well worth it.
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