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  1. #1
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    Is a bicycle inherently safer than a motorbike?

    If you drive a motorbike slowly, are you any more likely to fall off than if you drive a bicycle?

    Here are the factors I'm wondering about:

    1) Is it mostly speed that makes the motorbike dangerous? If you drive it as slowly as a bicycle, is it as safe as a bicycle? But maybe, a motorbike can't be driven as slowly as a bicycle, because its greater weight requires more speed to remain stable? So, due to that, a motorbike is inherently more dangerous, because it REQUIRES greater speed in order to maintain its gyroscopic stability?

    2) I wonder, does a motorbike fall harder than a bicycle falls, because of its additional weight? But then again, a bicycle rider sits higher above the street than a motorbike rider, so maybe the bicycle rider falls harder? Does the faster speed of a motorbike make the bike fall harder? Together with its additional weight?

    3) Why do I just FEEL I am safer on a bicycle? Is it just because I've never driven a motorbike, and my fears are unfounded? Or is it just all the publicity about motorbike danger? Or is it simply that a motorbike tempts you to drive faster?

    What are the physics of this? Thanks for any wisdom.

  2. #2
    Fritz M richardmasoner's Avatar
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    Males on motorcycles are much more likely to die than females, suggesting that rider behavior is probably a big part of motorcycle safety.

    Males can be boneheaded on bicycles, too, but our risk taking choices are limited by the much lower horsepower available to bicyclists.

  3. #3
    Geosynchronous Falconeer recursive's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by beelz View Post
    But then again, a bicycle rider sits higher above the street than a motorbike rider, so maybe the bicycle rider falls harder?
    Is this actually true?
    I wouldn't have thought so.
    Bring the pain.

  4. #4
    Senior Member sggoodri's Avatar
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    I believe the two biggest factors contributing to the increased danger on motorbikes compared to pedal bikes are (1) increased speed in the direction of travel when hitting objects or the ground in a crash or fall, and (2) increased probability of collision at junctions due to longer stopping distances combined with reduced visibility time and reaction time.

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by beelz View Post
    If you drive a motorbike slowly, are you any more likely to fall off than if you drive a bicycle?

    Here are the factors I'm wondering about:

    1) Is it mostly speed that makes the motorbike dangerous? If you drive it as slowly as a bicycle, is it as safe as a bicycle? But maybe, a motorbike can't be driven as slowly as a bicycle, because its greater weight requires more speed to remain stable? So, due to that, a motorbike is inherently more dangerous, because it REQUIRES greater speed in order to maintain its gyroscopic stability?

    2) I wonder, does a motorbike fall harder than a bicycle falls, because of its additional weight? But then again, a bicycle rider sits higher above the street than a motorbike rider, so maybe the bicycle rider falls harder? Does the faster speed of a motorbike make the bike fall harder? Together with its additional weight?

    3) Why do I just FEEL I am safer on a bicycle? Is it just because I've never driven a motorbike, and my fears are unfounded? Or is it just all the publicity about motorbike danger? Or is it simply that a motorbike tempts you to drive faster?

    What are the physics of this? Thanks for any wisdom.

    Im sure you have ridden where you can not really go faster than say 5 or 10 mph for a small stretch. at low speeds bikes tend to get more and more wobbly. Basically the heavier a 2 wheeled vehicle is the faster it needs to go to want to stay up right. So a massive harley will need to move faster to want to stay up and at lower speeds you need to work more to keep it up right.

    Try this some time.

    Ride your bike down the road at say 2 mph then back to your house at what ever speed you want now repeat at say 10 mph. How much more work do you need to do to keep upright at 2 mph compared to 10 mph?


    So are motorcycles inherently more dangerous than a bike? Sure because if you crash with a heavy motorcycle at 25 mph it will hurt worse than a bike at same speed. By hurt worse i do not mean as in hospital stay v no hospital stay. I simply mean it will hurt worse as in pain wise. I seen a guy crash a sportster at around 55 60 trashing the bike but walked away with minor road rash with out any special riding gear.

  6. #6
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    I have spent a good deal of time both on motorcycles and training others to ride safely. In my personal opinion, I feel safer and have many fewer "close calls" on my motorcycle than on my bicycle. I think this is because it is much easier to ride the motorcyle with the flow of traffic in the manner that most of the automobile driving public is used to (motorcyles behave much more like cars than bicycles).

    Motorcycles are also usually equipped with soft-sticky tires, good suspensions, and large brake rotors. It is my opinion that a skilled motorcycle rider will proform better evasive moves than a bicycle rider. The motorcyclist also has the rarely used option of hard acceration just not possible on a bicycle.

    While the motorcycle is less likely to crash, it will usually inflict greater injuries if it does happen. I have broken a bone on a touring motorcycle when riding off road and catching an edge trap. The sheer weight of the bike was enough to inflict the injuries I would have just laughed off on a bicycle.

    Just my .02
    Scott

  7. #7
    One speed: FAST ! fordfasterr's Avatar
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    Motorbikes are cool - I love draggin my pegs through turns in the middle of intersections .....
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  8. #8
    Unobtanium-Based Lifeform calamarichris's Avatar
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    As an avid cylist and motorcyclist who's ridden more than a quarter million miles and had some pretty spectacular mishaps, I feel qualified to answer.
    In traffic a motorcycle is MUCH safer than a bicycle. In my years of dodging close-calls on a motorcycle, I have come into contact with exactly 0 other vehicles. However, I have been struck by three cars while bicycling so far.
    In addition to travelling at similar speeds as the surrounding traffic, motorcylists also have more directional control and most importantly, LIGHTS. All three of my car-vs-bike accidents were by drivers who looked directly through me.

    In all other circumstances, a bicycle is probably safer than a motorcycle.

    Broke three ribs, lost about a square foot of skin from my hip, knee & thigh and ruined a brand-new helmet in this low-side, but at least my dog was unhurt.

    Peace!
    -CCinC

  9. #9
    One speed: FAST ! fordfasterr's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by calamarichris View Post
    .but at least my dog was unhurt.[/i]

    Peace!
    -CCinC

    Where the hell was the dog ?
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  10. #10
    So what did YOU do to it?
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    Quote Originally Posted by beelz View Post
    If you drive a motorbike slowly, are you any more likely to fall off than if you drive a bicycle?*snip*
    1) Is it mostly speed that makes the motorbike dangerous?
    No, If anything you're less likely to fall while riding a motorcycle. The forces a motorcycle generates to keep upright are much stronger than those of a bicycle, and it's much harder to give the bike an input that could cause you to crash. For example, when I was young, I was able to twist the handlebars fast, and hard enough to cause the front tire to skip off the ground. Ultimately with the effect of getting my front tire perpendicular to the direction of travel. This requires superhuman effort on a motorcycle.

    Yes, in most cases it is the speed that makes a motorcycle more dangerous. However the energy of the combined bike and rider is much greater with a motorcycle. If it's a situation where the bikes energy is dissipated through the rider, a 300-700lb motorcycle is going to put a lot more energy into your body and hurt you a LOT more. Even at slow speeds you're dancing with a 400lb dance partner. Imagine if a 400lb woman stepped on your foot with high heels on.

    To address your gyroscopic point. Gyroscopic forces only provide damping for the bicycle system. They do not provide righting force. That is, if you have wheels with no mass, (or if you need a real world example, skis) a bicycle or motorcycle is still stable. If anything I have just as easy of a time creeping my motorcycle at 2mph as I do riding my bicycles at 2mph.

    2) I wonder, does a motorbike fall harder than a bicycle falls, because of its additional weight?
    A fall from 33" off the ground is the same as a fall from 33" off a table, a chair, a bicycle, or a motorcycle. However as mentioned earlier, if the energy from the cycle is transfered to you... you can be thrown further. If you need an example, hop on youtube and type in "highside" and watch the riders fly.

    Speed doesn't kill. Last year a rider departed his bike at 180mph. He slid to a stop. It took him a while to stop ... but the rider was up and on his motogp bike by the next race. Riders die by hitting things before they've stopped sliding. Same goes for a bicylist as a motorcyclist.

    3) Why do I just FEEL I am safer on a bicycle? Is it just because I've never driven a motorbike, and my fears are unfounded? Or is it just all the publicity about motorbike danger? Or is it simply that a motorbike tempts you to drive faster?

    What are the physics of this? Thanks for any wisdom.
    Maybe you haven't crashed a motorcycle. :-) When riding my bicycle I am constantly haunted by the desire to wear my riding gear and really go at it. Most motorcycle wrecks happen at speeds that are easily achievable on a bicycle. My first real wreck was at 40-50mph in a hilly area. My second was 15mph in the woods. Both shattered bones.

    The illusion of safety comes from the weight of the machine. A 20lb machine doesn't instantly demand respect the same way a 400lb motorcycle does. One oops on a motorcycle, even in the garage, and you can have a shattered ankle. ( I know of at least one person who's done that...) Drop a 20lb motorcycle and your first thought is "did I scratch my pedals."
    Last edited by nerobro; 09-05-07 at 07:33 PM.

  11. #11
    Upright bars SirMike1983's Avatar
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    I'm not sure they make high heels that'll hold a 400 lb woman.
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  12. #12
    Unobtanium-Based Lifeform calamarichris's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by fordfasterr View Post
    Where the hell was the dog ?

    She's ridden more than 55,000 miles. And she was more freaked out by the screaming red truck and large yellow men who came running out of it than she was by the crash.
    It was kinda comical in a way; two of them in the poofy yellow firesuits chasing her around in circles, hopelessly incapable of catching her. I'm sitting on the curb, holding my broken ribs, trying not to throw up, whispering as loudly as I can, "NO! Stop! Leave her alone."
    After chasing her around for several minutes, the two huge firemen finally shrugged at each other, "Huh...She must be okay if we can't catch her."

    And sometimes we take her nephew along too:

  13. #13
    One speed: FAST ! fordfasterr's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by calamarichris View Post
    ...

    And sometimes we take her nephew along too:
    ... [/img]

    Dude, that is so wild !

    You should see some of the dog/biker pics on www.killboy.com
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  14. #14
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    In a bicycle pace line, I and a couple of buddies werer hit by left turning car. I was going too fast downhill on my bicycle in Mt Evans CO and I ran into the side of a mountain. I've taken out a couple of driver side mirrors and ran into a door that was opened (accidentally) in my path.
    I rode about 5000 miles on my motorcycle (in Vermont) wihtout crashing. I did have to swerve to avoid a left turn merging teen age driver.
    I agree with just about everything said so far.

    Motorcycle
    Advantages - larger presence in any lane in roadway, able to move at same speed of cars, acceleration, brake lights, turn signals, full face helmet, leather jacket.
    Disadvantages - weight, momentum, hot moving parts,

    Bicycle
    Advantages - relatively low speed, less likely to be seriously injured in self crash.
    Disadvantages - relegated to right side of roadway most of the time.

    The stats in Phoenix, AZ in 2005:
    506 Car - Motorcycle collisions, 461 injuries, 26 deaths
    480 Car - Bicycle collisions, 436 injuries, 11 deaths, 138 out of the 436 injuries in riders younger than 17.
    269 collision involved cyclist riding against the flow of traffic.

    32,113 Car - Car collisions, 18,324 injuries, 90 deaths


    It certainly depends on how YOU ride your motorcycle bicycle. if you ride like a moron on either, you're gonna have problems. I have great confidence in my cycling abilities and I know the techniques I need to use when I'm riding motorcycle or bicycle. Take the Motorcycle Safety Foundation basic rider course. great for new riders who have little experience.

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    I think your fear of motorcyle because you haven't been on one is reasonable.

    Once you get a ride on a motorcycle or buy one, your fears will gradually disappear.

  16. #16
    *****es love tarck kemmer's Avatar
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    In general, I feel alot safer on a motorcycle than I do on a bicycle.

  17. #17
    ♋ ☮♂ ☭ ☯ -=(8)=-'s Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by kemmer View Post
    In general, I feel alot safer on a motorcycle than I do on a bicycle.
    Wut Kemmer sed !

    I feel much safer on an MC.
    -ADVOCACY-☜ Radical VC = Car people on bikes. Just say "NO"

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    I agree with everyone else...MCs can generally fit in with traffic better than bikes, and have a more obvious presence. It's less likely that drivers will turn in front of them because they don't see them coming, and stuff like that. But if it does happen, results will be uglier.

    This is slightly OT (okay, really OT), but Calamarichris, how do you like your Ninja? I'm thinking about getting a 250cc Ninja for my first bike. I wanted a sportsbike, but since I'm about 0 ft tall, I can't fit the "real" sportsbikes.

  19. #19
    Punk Rock Lives Roughstuff's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by sggoodri View Post
    I believe the two biggest factors contributing to the increased danger on motorbikes compared to pedal bikes are (1) increased speed in the direction of travel when hitting objects or the ground in a crash or fall, and (2) increased probability of collision at junctions due to longer stopping distances combined with reduced visibility time and reaction time.


    Good points. Also...motorcycle helmets obscure your vision and obliterate your hearing, in contrast to bicycle helmets; if you even wear the latter.

    roughstuff
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  20. #20
    Unobtanium-Based Lifeform calamarichris's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by tissuedigester View Post
    This is slightly OT (okay, really OT), but Calamarichris, how do you like your Ninja? I'm thinking about getting a 250cc Ninja for my first bike. I wanted a sportsbike, but since I'm about 0 ft tall, I can't fit the "real" sportsbikes.
    I've ridden both the 250 & 500 and I really think the 500 is a better bike than the 250. Yes, also a better beginner bike. If you ever need to ride on the freeway (which is a nice convenience sometimes) the 500 will do it quite easily, where the 250 really has to scream to keep up with traffic.

    Despite owning several larger, faster bikes, I bought my third Ninja 500R last December and named him Gumby:

    ~STELLAR mileage: 67.66mpg is my record on a tankful so far, and I have yet to get worse than 50mpg--which is even better than most of the 250's average. (?!?)
    ~Dirt cheap to insure and maintain. (I have an Unfinished Valve Adjustment Guide on my website.
    ~Aside from color, Kawasaki has not changed a single thing on this model since 1994, so parts will always be cheap and plentiful on ebay and in salvage yards.
    ~The engine is based on (and even shares many components with) Kawasaki's solid Concours engine, which regularly last more than 100,000 miles, (in a few cases more than 200,000.)
    ~The riding position is comfortable enough for extended multi-day tours from San Diego to Whistler, BC and back.
    ~The table-top gas-tank is the very best surface on which to carry foo-foo dogs, pizzas or crates of chickens.
    ~It will handily smoke any Harley you come across. (Only if you want to of course.) Indeed, whip them like rented mules.

    This motorbike is a decent consolation to tide us over until technology enables us all to pedal at 75mph on freeways. If you're ever in the San Diego area, you're welcome to take Gumby for a spin.
    -Chris in Carlsbad, CA
    calamarichris@gmail.com
    Last edited by calamarichris; 09-05-07 at 05:50 PM.

  21. #21
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    I expected this thread to be a dud. Even had my own opinion to offer - and I'll offer it in a minute (or less). But, I have to say I was surprised by the quality of the answers - and I learned a thing or two. Now, this may be rational or not, but, I have never owned a motorcycle. The thought of having one thrills me, but I have always felt that, had I owned and used one regularly, I'd probably be dead by now.

    As an auto driver, there have been more than one occasion (especially in my younger days) when I drove whatever I was in as fast as it would go. Oh, sure, I exercised "caution" by doing my fast driving in relatively sparsely trafficked, wide open roads, but, depending on the car, I did drive fast (we're talking 135-145 mph). I got a ticket four years back doing 98 in a 55. No priors in that neck of the woods, so I got a fine and took an online driving school course sanctioned by the court to avoid penalties and further complications.

    On my bike, even today, when the opportunity to ride fast presents itself, I just cannot resist going as fast as I can. A week doesn't go by that I don't reach downhill speeds of 45 - 50 mph. Again, I feel I'm being careful when I ride at those speeds, but, still, if some animal jumped out of the ditch in front of me at those speeds, I'm going to go splat in a major way (there are posts on this forum where animals ran into spokes and caused great calamity). My point is that, if I owned a motorcycle, I'd no doubt do the same thing on it occasionally.

    On the freeway, it's not at all uncommon for me to be whizzed by some guy on a motorcycle fully committed at full speed (90 mph??) as he leans steeply into a curve. One unexpected bump in the road, some gravel, oil, or any need to quickly scrub speed or alter course, and that guy is simply a doomed.

    I watched a fatal accident unfold on the PA turnpike one day. A cyclist was really cutting up, in and out of his lane, between cars, you name it at break neck speed. Some auto made an unexpected lane change and the guy went down, never to get up again.

    Nah, I ride my bike because that is where I belong. Am I safer? Probably a little . . . who knows.

    At least, when I wipe out (and I have a couple of times), I'll be in good physical condition.

    Great thread. Glad that I took the time to read it. . . oh, and, whenever I see you guys/gals on your MC's, I really envy you.

    Caruso
    Last edited by Carusoswi; 09-05-07 at 06:09 PM.

  22. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by jp.in.az View Post
    The stats in Phoenix, AZ in 2005:
    506 Car - Motorcycle collisions, 461 injuries, 26 deaths
    480 Car - Bicycle collisions, 436 injuries, 11 deaths, 138 out of the 436 injuries in riders younger than 17.
    269 collision involved cyclist riding against the flow of traffic.

    These stats are little deceiving because there are far more bicyclist on the road then there motorcyclists. So there are 436 injuries that were reported but how many were not? I suspect this number of 436 might be out of 5 or 10 thousand bicyclists while the 461 injuries are the result of several hundred motorcyclists.

    It looks like there are 25 more motorcycle than bicycle accident but the figure does not state how many more cyclists are on the road. The Hurt Report gives a very grim view of motorcycle accidents in general.

    If I'm not correct, many of the motorcycle accidents happen at night or during poor weather conditions. Mortorcycles and bicycles are not ment to be ridden at night.

    Having said all this, I still want to try out motorcycling soon. I just like the freedom of going places and not being dependant on commuter rail lines.

  23. #23
    Senior Member dynodonn's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dahon.Steve View Post

    If I'm not correct, many of the motorcycle accidents happen at night or during poor weather conditions. Mortorcycles and bicycles are not ment to be ridden at night.
    Looks like my motorcycle riding is a contradiction, since all my motorcycle downings were during the daytime hours. My only reason that I can therorize is the fact that I rode my motorcycle at a higher rate of speed during the daytime.

  24. #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by Carusoswi View Post
    Now, this may be rational or not, but, I have never owned a motorcycle. The thought of having one thrills me, but I have always felt that, had I owned and used one regularly, I'd probably be dead by now.
    This is the sort of maturity that most riders lack. And the sort that keeps those of us who aren't dead, alive. :-)

    *going fast*On the freeway, it's not at all uncommon for me to be whizzed by some guy on a motorcycle fully committed at full speed (90 mph??) as he leans steeply into a curve. One unexpected bump in the road, some gravel, oil, or any need to quickly scrub speed or alter course, and that guy is simply a doomed.
    There is a lot you can do about most surface problems while on a bike. Wider tires seem to be more forgiving of changes in surface condition. While bombing through a ravine road up in winetka I had an interesting moment. As I came around the lowest corner, I ran into leaves. Not complete foliage, but the dust from a thousand cars grinding leaves into the ground. As I rolled on the throttle, the back tire spun and I was driving my motorcycle sideways for a good 30-40' before I could bring the back end back again. Gravel sucks too, but so long as you're not completely committed and you have some lean angle, and traction to spare, there are a lot of options open to you.

    On a bicycle you do not have the option that is most helpfull on a motorcycle. Many, if not most motorcycle issues are solved by gently rolling on the throttle.

    I watched a fatal accident unfold on the PA turnpike one day. A cyclist was really cutting up, in and out of his lane, between cars, you name it at break neck speed. Some auto made an unexpected lane change and the guy went down, never to get up again.

    Nah, I ride my bike because that is where I belong. Am I safer? Probably a little . . . who knows.

    At least, when I wipe out (and I have a couple of times), I'll be in good physical condition.

    Great thread. Glad that I took the time to read it. . . oh, and, whenever I see you guys/gals on your MC's, I really envy you.

    Caruso
    This is why I don't leave my driveway without wearing my gear. I do everything i can to stack the odds in my favor. I don't lane split. I leave room to screw up on nearly every corner I take. It isn't worth getting hurt.

    Quote Originally Posted by Dahon.Steve View Post
    *good points about statistics*
    If I'm not correct, many of the motorcycle accidents happen at night or during poor weather conditions. Mortorcycles and bicycles are not ment to be ridden at night.

    Having said all this, I still want to try out motorcycling soon.
    Motorcycles have headlights. Most of them are exceedingly good. Their headlights position in relation to the road means the light thrown by a bike is more effective than the lights on most cars. On a lot of bikes, the headlight is handlebar mounted, so it even points the direction you're going.

    Bike accidents happen at night because of drunk middleagers riding their Red Blooded American Motorsickles home from the bar. The typical accident is someone driving straight when the road turns. There is invariably alcahol in the blood of said accident "victim".

    As long as your goal is not to be Valentino Rossi, riding at night is, if anything, safer than riding during the day. I've never been blinded by the moon ;-)

    Don't just "try one out" Go take the MSF. Learn properly.

  25. #25
    ♋ ☮♂ ☭ ☯ -=(8)=-'s Avatar
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    Ive been riding MC's since '75.
    Ive fallen in the dirt at least 4000 times and on the road twice.
    Ive spent what would probably amount to hours over 100mph
    but when I fell it was on Harleys both times going and about
    35mph in broad daylite
    -ADVOCACY-☜ Radical VC = Car people on bikes. Just say "NO"

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