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  1. #1
    Eugenian mr_nickos_jr's Avatar
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    Side of the road?

    Ok so you know there are bike lanes, and you can see the arrows that point one way or another. But is it law that a biker must ride on the right side of a street when in the bike lane?

    Honest question, and don't say I'm stupid for asking. There's little things like this that aren't well known by people who rarely bike. It may make sense to ride on the right side, but when I was learning about hiking along roads without sidewalks I heard of walking towards incoming traffic so: you can see what's coming at you and can move if you need to, instead of being oblivious.

    So yeah, my question is: Is it law to ride on the right side of the street when using a bike lane (biking, obviously)?

    --

    Also, I have some sort of off topic issue about the same sort of thing in general. - If they expect people to obey certain biking laws, yet don't require people to learn these laws, how can they fine people for it? I mean, with learning to drive, you must take courses/driving test, and then are held accountable when you screw up. But with biking, any person/kid/maniac/person can ride, without any requirement to learn anything about laws and what's expected of them, yet are held accountable for what they aren't required to know.

    Huh?

  2. #2
    Commuter JohnBrooking's Avatar
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    No penalty for honest questions, although sometimes there's little apparent difference between them and "trolls". Assuming they really are honest questions...

    The laws about bike lane use vary by locality. But regardless of what the law says, riding with the flow of other bikes and cars is also a good idea. An important practical reason is, that's what everyone else is doing. Going against most of the other traffic in the bike lane would be like skating opposite everyone else at a skating rink, and will probably earn you a post by someone else on this forum starting with "I almost ran down a wrong-way cyclist in the bike lane...".

    But why do people ride with traffic instead of against it, with or without bike lanes? If you look at some recent threads on this board, you can probably find a true troll thread that we had here last week by a guy who insisted that he was safer going against traffic, to which of course many reasons were given that he was wrong. To summarize: There is of course some advantage to being able to see the traffic that will be passing you as it approaches, and being able to communicate with the driver head-on. This is why it is safer for pedestrians. The difference with bikes is that we generally go faster, and in a straight line that cannot be altered as quickly as pedestrians can turn or jump.

    The speed has several important implications. It increases the number of interactions in the same time period, it increases the closing speed, and decreases the reaction time. A pedestrian walking at 3 MPH against traffic going 30 MPH means a closing speed of 33, not much different than 30. Furthermore, walking with traffic would only decrease that to 27, probably negligeable. Now, a bicycle going at 15 MPH (very possible even for beginning adults, more experienced cyclists can easily cruise at 20 or 25) will be passing oncoming 30 MPH traffic at a total of 45 MPH! Travelling with the other traffic means they are only overtaking you at 15 MPH. You can imagine the implications of 45 vs. 15 on reaction time and (god forbid) collision impact. Also consider that a bike and car about to collide require both to come to a complete stop to avoid a collision. A car about to hit a bike from behind requires only that the car slow to the bike's speed or less.

    It is true that a number bike fatalities involve being hit from behind, contributing to this fear of riding with traffic. However, most of these involve high rates of speed, impaired motorists, or cyclists riding in the dark without lights and bright clothing, and are among the least likely to happen, although the most likely to get lots of publicity. Most collisions, although mostly non-fatal, happen at intersections, where visibility may be adversely affected by being in an unexpected place, which is where riding against traffic puts you.

    Bottom line: The advantages of opposing traffic are clear at walking speed, but at cycling speed, outweighed by the disadvantages.

    On your last question: "They" (lawmakers and law enforcers) can do anything the law says they can do, and the law says that they can fine cyclists for not obeying traffic rules, while also not saying that said cyclists need to be licensed. Licensing for cyclists has been tried some places, and discussed on occasion here. The general consensus seems to be that it's too hard to enforce bicycle licensing and not important enough compared to the other work that the police have to do. Even getting police to enforce traffic laws on cyclists is rare. I think that the fact that there are fines constitutes "requiring" cyclists to know it. As the saying goes, ignorance of the law is no excuse. What cyclists are not required to do is to have a plastic card proving that they know it. (Or once did!)

    Yes, any person/kid/maniac can ride, and many do. Is it a problem or freedom? Depends on who you ask. I think most of us here can agree that more cyclist education can only be a good thing, as well as education of motorists about cyclists. But one of the sticking points is how to convince cyclists they need it, if you think they do? Licensing would be one way, but comes with all the baggage mentioned above.
    Quote Originally Posted by MadfiNch on Commuting forum
    What's the point of a bike if you can only ride it on weekends, and you can't even carry anything with you?!
    Portland Maine Bicycle Commuting Meetup

  3. #3
    Eugenian mr_nickos_jr's Avatar
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    Yeah I can see it being somewhat different due to speed differences when biking.

    One inconvenience is being able to cross to the other side, when in a hurry and saying screw it and biking on the left side until it's clear to cross. Which I've done :-p.

    What kind of sparked me asking, was I did ride on the left side as the traffic was bad and I couldn't be sitting waiting to cross as I was in a hurry to work. But a car waiting at some stop sign on a residential cross-road, to my left was turning right to join traffic that was coming my way. Twice this has happened, and they decide not to look both ways, and in effect get close to hitting me. The first lady screamed sorry, the second guy yelled at me and threw up his hands. Both were at fault for not looking both ways, though I was not sure if I was at fault as well for riding on the left side. And as I said, they don't force bikers to learn biker law, so did not know if it was my legal responsibility to ride on the right side - though it may be in my best interest anyway.

  4. #4
    www.chipsea.blogspot.com ChipSeal's Avatar
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    The other day I was at the ice skating rink and I almost ran down a wrong way skater! I was just gliding along, minding my own business when...
    Vehicular cycling techniques have not been tried and found difficult. They have been presumed difficult and not tried.

  5. #5
    `````````````` CaptainCool's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JohnBrooking View Post
    As the saying goes, ignorance of the law is no excuse.
    Yep. You are generally required to know the laws, whether or not you have been forced to learn them.

    Read your state's bike laws. You're probably usually required to be near the right side of the road, whether or not there's a bike lane there. On a one-way street, you may be able to bike on the left. At an intersection, you can probably act like a pedestrian and use the crosswalks if you want.

    And watch out for people making right turns. I almost got run over while on foot last week. I was walking on the sidewalk, on the left side of the road, and a kid turning right out of a parking lot didn't see me until he looked forward after starting to move. And then he yelled at me. Ass.

  6. #6
    del dot
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    Quote Originally Posted by mr_nickos_jr View Post
    What kind of sparked me asking, was I did ride on the left side as the traffic was bad and I couldn't be sitting waiting to cross as I was in a hurry to work. But a car waiting at some stop sign on a residential cross-road, to my left was turning right to join traffic that was coming my way. Twice this has happened, and they decide not to look both ways, and in effect get close to hitting me. The first lady screamed sorry, the second guy yelled at me and threw up his hands. Both were at fault for not looking both ways, though I was not sure if I was at fault as well for riding on the left side.
    You've just described one of the greatest dangers of riding on the wrong side of the road: you enter intersections from a direction that no one expects. Had you collided with either of the cars you just described, it's almost certain that you would have been held 100% at fault. While it would be good advice, from a defensive driving standpoint, for them to look both ways before turning, their mistake was a minor one compared to yours.

    Not wanting to sound unduly harsh or anything; I'm glad you are riding, and I hope you enjoy it and stick with it...but please stay on the right side of the road!

  7. #7
    Commuter JohnBrooking's Avatar
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    Regarding drivers looking both ways, many don't if they are turning right, at least not for long. Why should they? Because a bike rider might be coming at them the wrong way? Sure, they should look for pedestrians, but often a quick glance at the corner will suffice for that, which can easily miss a bicycle 20 feet away but closing fast.

    You might find this article enlightening.
    Quote Originally Posted by MadfiNch on Commuting forum
    What's the point of a bike if you can only ride it on weekends, and you can't even carry anything with you?!
    Portland Maine Bicycle Commuting Meetup

  8. #8
    del dot
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    By the way, Mr. Nickos, here's a link that I should have included in my previous post: Bicycling Street Smarts, by John Allen. It's a fairly short, concise read, and has got lots of good information about cycling in traffic...things that you would otherwise have to learn through experience, trial and error, and scar tissue.

  9. #9
    tired donnamb's Avatar
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    Mr. Nickos, you're in Oregon, so my own experience will apply to you. Oregon traffic law states that cyclists must ride in a bike lane if one is present unless there are hazards or if they are preparing to make a left turn. Hazards could mean a lot of things. Oregon traffic law also states that cyclists must ride in the same direction as all other traffic. A bike lane is a traffic lane, after all, and the same rules about direction that apply to motorized vehicles apply to us. As far as I am aware, there are no 2 direction bike lanes in this state.

    Here are a couple of links to Oregon traffic laws as they apply to us. Here is a PDF version of the manual on cyclist law written by Ray Thomas. You can also purchase a paper copy of this through the Bicycle Transportation Alliance.

    Quote Originally Posted by mr_nickos_jr View Post
    What kind of sparked me asking, was I did ride on the left side as the traffic was bad and I couldn't be sitting waiting to cross as I was in a hurry to work. But a car waiting at some stop sign on a residential cross-road, to my left was turning right to join traffic that was coming my way. Twice this has happened, and they decide not to look both ways, and in effect get close to hitting me. The first lady screamed sorry, the second guy yelled at me and threw up his hands. Both were at fault for not looking both ways, though I was not sure if I was at fault as well for riding on the left side. And as I said, they don't force bikers to learn biker law, so did not know if it was my legal responsibility to ride on the right side - though it may be in my best interest anyway.
    In Oregon, you were the one legally at fault in both cases for riding on the wrong side of the road. Ah well, live and learn.
    "Real wars of words are harder to win. They require thought, insight, precision, articulation, knowledge, and experience. They require the humility to admit when you are wrong. They recognize that the dialectic is not about making us look at you, but about us all looking together for the truth."

  10. #10
    Senior Member Keith99's Avatar
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    Local municapilities do not get to make their own rules. Pretty much unless otherwise marked bike lanes are in the direction of traffic only. In California they have taken to putting arrows and/or drawings of bikes in the direction of traffic in bike lanes to make this clear, even to those who can not read.

    (The exceptions are almost always marked and the most common, yet still rare, case is on one way streets where two way cycling in the bike lane is permitted. But not always wise, for reasons already given in this thread).

  11. #11
    Cycle Year Round CB HI's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Keith99 View Post
    Local municapilities do not get to make their own rules. Pretty much unless otherwise marked bike lanes are in the direction of traffic only. In California they have taken to putting arrows and/or drawings of bikes in the direction of traffic in bike lanes to make this clear, even to those who can not read.

    (The exceptions are almost always marked and the most common, yet still rare, case is on one way streets where two way cycling in the bike lane is permitted. But not always wise, for reasons already given in this thread).
    Although California does not allow local municapilities to make their own rules, there are a couple of states that permit local municapilities to make some of their own rules (especially what roads cyclist are not allowed to use or mandatory side path laws).

  12. #12
    Al noisebeam's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by CB HI View Post
    Although California does not allow local municapilities to make their own rules, there are a couple of states that permit local municapilities to make some of their own rules (especially what roads cyclist are not allowed to use or mandatory side path laws).
    Right. For example the City of Tempe, AZ prohibits wrong way cycling on the sidewalk as well:
    " (c) No person shall ride or operate a bicycle in any direction except that permitted by vehicular traffic on the same side of the roadway where the sidewalk or bicycle lane exists; provided, that bicycles may proceed either way where signs or pavement markings on the sidewalk, bikeway or bicycle lane appear designating two-way traffic."

    Al

  13. #13
    tired donnamb's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Keith99 View Post
    Local municapilities do not get to make their own rules. Pretty much unless otherwise marked bike lanes are in the direction of traffic only. In California they have taken to putting arrows and/or drawings of bikes in the direction of traffic in bike lanes to make this clear, even to those who can not read.
    At this point, I don't believe there are any contra-flow bike lanes in Oregon.
    "Real wars of words are harder to win. They require thought, insight, precision, articulation, knowledge, and experience. They require the humility to admit when you are wrong. They recognize that the dialectic is not about making us look at you, but about us all looking together for the truth."

  14. #14
    Eugenian mr_nickos_jr's Avatar
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    Not going to say I wasn't at fault, but not looking both ways at a cross intersection while turning right for a car is anything but minor. Someone I know almost died because they turned right without looking right, and a truck was passing coming the other direction so was in his lane.

    Either way, as a driver I'm told the person in the car when they hit a biker nearly always is at fault. And as a biker, I'm told it's the other way around. Either way I know I should take more precautions, and am not an idiot.

    Regarding law, I still personally feel if they require people and hold people accountable for laws they should ensure they know them. And when there's children biking, are you going to say they aren't held accountable? Isn't that entirely more unsafe, seeing as they likely won't be as attentive as an adult or as visible? Not that they should be held accountable, but you'd think seeing as it's in the biker's best interest, they'd do something to ensure people know about it.

    With driving, it's dangerous if people don't know. They have tests, and require people to know the laws about driving. But for biking it can be equally if not more dangerous? Yet they won't bother making sure they know, despite a lot being common sense, it wouldn't be for children which many learn to bike at an early age.

    Whatever, I find the system somewhat flawed, but I guess that's another topic entirely.

    Thanks for clearing it up.

    Edit: Is it then illegal to bike on the sidewalk? Lol.... That'd seem less safe and people do that all the time.
    Last edited by mr_nickos_jr; 09-26-07 at 06:17 AM.

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    Banned. Helmet Head's Avatar
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    Kudos to John B and "divergence" for their excellent answers. I have nothing to add, except to note that this thread exemplifies (whether the OP is genuine or a troll) yet another element of confusion that bike lanes bring to the uninitiated cyclist - the very population that they're supposed to help.

    When I was in Davis, CA, the only "platinum bike friendly" city in the USA, a few months ago, I noted seeing quite a few bicyclists, but about half were riding the wrong way (on the side opposing traffic), in bike lanes.

    Bicycling was even more popular there in the 1960s, before any bike lanes were installed, and wrong way cycling was not the norm there then. It is today.

  16. #16
    Banned. Helmet Head's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mr_nickos_jr View Post
    Not going to say I wasn't at fault, but not looking both ways at a cross intersection while turning right for a car is anything but minor. Someone I know almost died because they turned right without looking right, and a truck was passing coming the other direction so was in his lane.
    Here's the thing. Most drivers make dozens of right turns a day, hundreds a week, thousands if not tens of thousands per year.

    When right turn after right turn they regularly see potential hazards when they look left, and virtually never see hazards when they look right, it is only natural that they are going to pay more and more attention looking left, and less and less, sometimes bordering on zero attention, looking right. It may not be right. It may not be ideal. But it's normal, natural and understandable. Ride accordingly. It is unreasonable to expect a right-turning to look right before he turns right, and to bet your life and limb that he does. Besides, as has been noted, he may very well may look right and still not see you coming (see simple diagram below for how sight lines are easily blocked due to the relative positioning of a right turning driver and bicyclist coming the wrong way)


    Code:
          ----->          <--  BIKE
        /        Parked Cars
       / +--------------------
      C |
      A |
      R |
        |

  17. #17
    Banned. Helmet Head's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mr_nickos_jr View Post
    With driving, it's dangerous if people don't know. They have tests, and require people to know the laws about driving. But for biking it can be equally if not more dangerous? Yet they won't bother making sure they know, despite a lot being common sense, it wouldn't be for children which many learn to bike at an early age.
    Pedestrians are not required to pass tests and get licenses either before they are allowed to use the roads. It's a free country. The only reason/justification that motor vehicle drivers are required to get licensed is because of the potential serious harm they may cause to others. The whole protect-the-individual-from-himself legal mentality, inherent in seatbelt, airbag and helmet laws, is a relatively new phenomenon, perhaps originating with alcohol prohibition.


    Quote Originally Posted by mr_nickos_jr View Post
    ]
    Edit: Is it then illegal to bike on the sidewalk? Lol.... That'd seem less safe and people do that all the time.
    In most places sidewalk cycling is legal, in some (mostly business districts) it's not. It's safer than wrongway cycling on the road because while you're on the sidewalk (and not crossing a driveway) you're not at any risk. The real danger is to enter intersections (including crossing driveways) without slowing down and making sure it's safe, but that can be done. In short, if you obey pedestrian rules while cycling on sidewalks, you should be as safe as a pedestrian. In contrast, it's practically impossible to make wrongway cycling safe, no matter what you do.

  18. #18
    Al noisebeam's Avatar
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    Here is an example I just today uploaded to YT of a wrong way cyclist who makes a left turn into opposing traffic direction. You can't tell in the video, but the cyclist did not even see me until after the turn when they then pulled a bit toward the curb.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7t04RKmSbD0

    Al

  19. #19
    Banned. Helmet Head's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Pete Fagerlin View Post
    Proof?
    My evidence is empirical anecdotal based on being there in the 1960s (summers in the late '60s) and recently. I would like to see a study on it, though.
    Last edited by Helmet Head; 09-26-07 at 11:11 AM.

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    Banned. Helmet Head's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Pete Fagerlin View Post
    I think anecdotal would be a much better description than empirical.
    Fair enough.

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    Senior Member Keith99's Avatar
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    Nice diagram and excellent reasoning. I'd just like to point out that the situation is even worse when it comes to expecting a driver to check when making a LEFT hand turn with a rider going against traffic on the other side of the same street as the driver. There is simply no way the driver can check behind him and then check oncoming traffic on anything even close to being a busy street.


    Quote Originally Posted by Helmet Head View Post
    Here's the thing. Most drivers make dozens of right turns a day, hundreds a week, thousands if not tens of thousands per year.

    When right turn after right turn they regularly see potential hazards when they look left, and virtually never see hazards when they look right, it is only natural that they are going to pay more and more attention looking left, and less and less, sometimes bordering on zero attention, looking right. It may not be right. It may not be ideal. But it's normal, natural and understandable. Ride accordingly. It is unreasonable to expect a right-turning to look right before he turns right, and to bet your life and limb that he does. Besides, as has been noted, he may very well may look right and still not see you coming (see simple diagram below for how sight lines are easily blocked due to the relative positioning of a right turning driver and bicyclist coming the wrong way)


    Code:
          ----->          <--  BIKE
        /        Parked Cars
       / +--------------------
      C |
      A |
      R |
        |

  22. #22
    tired donnamb's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mr_nickos_jr View Post
    Either way, as a driver I'm told the person in the car when they hit a biker nearly always is at fault. And as a biker, I'm told it's the other way around. Either way I know I should take more precautions, and am not an idiot.
    I think it's about 50/50.

    Quote Originally Posted by mr_nickos_jr View Post
    Regarding law, I still personally feel if they require people and hold people accountable for laws they should ensure they know them. And when there's children biking, are you going to say they aren't held accountable? Isn't that entirely more unsafe, seeing as they likely won't be as attentive as an adult or as visible? Not that they should be held accountable, but you'd think seeing as it's in the biker's best interest, they'd do something to ensure people know about it.

    With driving, it's dangerous if people don't know. They have tests, and require people to know the laws about driving. But for biking it can be equally if not more dangerous? Yet they won't bother making sure they know, despite a lot being common sense, it wouldn't be for children which many learn to bike at an early age.
    Why not get involved with the solution?

    Quote Originally Posted by mr_nickos_jr View Post
    Edit: Is it then illegal to bike on the sidewalk? Lol.... That'd seem less safe and people do that all the time.
    It is legal, but municipalities can ban it in certain areas. For instance, the City of Portland made it illegal to ride on the sidewalk in the majority of the downtown area.
    "Real wars of words are harder to win. They require thought, insight, precision, articulation, knowledge, and experience. They require the humility to admit when you are wrong. They recognize that the dialectic is not about making us look at you, but about us all looking together for the truth."

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    Eugenian mr_nickos_jr's Avatar
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    I ride on the correct side and have for quite some time now; drivers are still careless. I've been closer to being hit since riding on the correct side, though I might be able to attribute that to it being darker out (yes I have lights + reflective jacket).

    To the above though I agree with your reasoning I don't ride on streets where cars are parked usually, at least not any streets that have any traffic (the ones that do don't have space for that).

    Edit: I've come to classify drivers in 3 ways. Reasonable, *Rude*(it censored my classification ), and Hesitant. Reasonable is best, but trying to judge if the person is an ******* or hesitant when they see a bike is tiresome. When I have the right of way a car still turns in front of me or on a curved road still drifts into the bike lane threatening to hit me. Side of the road is definitely a good idea but the reasoning "why risk it?" regarding the side of the road would also apply to biking in general. Though there is the legal aspect ;P

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    Quote Originally Posted by mr_nickos_jr View Post
    ...I did ride on the left side as the traffic was bad and I couldn't be sitting waiting to cross as I was in a hurry to work.
    a car waiting at a stop sign on a cross-road, (to my left was turning right to join traffic that was coming my way. Twice this has happened, and they decide not to look both ways, and in effect get close to hitting me.
    They WERE looking both ways. They were looking absolutely everywhere where they had any reasonable expectation of oncoming traffic to be coming from. You weren't in any of those places, so they didn't look at you. Sort've like getting upset because some fool couldn't figure out without being told that you keep your milk in the toolbox in your garage. They were NOT at fault, because you weren't where they had any reason to be looking.

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    Eugenian mr_nickos_jr's Avatar
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    That statement was old. I now know people are oblivious regardless and it's best to be in the right. Anyway - just an FYI. It is law to look both ways and there are roads where people temporarily go into the other lane and if he/she turns right into that they risk hitting someone/something. You cannot tell me people turning right shouldn't be looking both ways :S. Though I agree I shouldn't be on the left side and have already ceased doing that as of at least 3-4 months ago. Even with me being in the right people are still dumb, still oblivious, and still almost hit me.

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