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Old 12-28-11, 11:30 PM   #1
david58
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Are there times it is just dumb to ride?

Tonight I was driving in Corvallis, OR, a cycling-friendly college town (a dangerous combination IMHO). Windy, very windy, and torrential rain. Very difficult to see as a driver.

Was spooked a couple of times by cyclists passing me, with no apparent headlight and marginal tail light. Saw other unlit bikes (this was all after dark).

I noticed how hard it was for me to make out the lines on the road whilst driving, and how the glare of headlights and taillights, and the bright advertising signs, and the constant change in lighting from moving from under a street light to areas in between.

I also noticed how my eyes (I'm 53) don't care for the new bright blue headlights, and especially the cars that either are using driving lights or leaving the lights on high beam.

I came to the conclusion that there are some times where cycling is just plain dumb. Drivers, no matter how conscientious, are going to have a hard time seeing even a well-lit cyclist in these conditions. I just scratched these weather conditions off my ride day list - even though it will impact my commute and my monthly mileage.

Sure, the right to ride is there - but even the most careful driver is having trouble in these conditions, and I couldn't help but think that the folks I saw out there today hadn't really thought it through very well.
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Old 12-29-11, 12:21 AM   #2
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These times that "cycling is plain dumb" often overlap those times where driving would be correspondingly more risky. I'll give you a hint: if you're having difficulty seeing out of your car, other drivers are having difficulty seeing out of theirs. Everyone's risk proportionately increases during these times. In my experience, my own visibility from a bike is more consistent in inclement weather than when I am in a car. I really feel trapped when I'm in my car and its raining, when I'm riding my glasses can get wet, but never as bad as a car windshield, plus I have more feedback from sound, that is, I can hear what cars around me are doing better. Rain in a car is loud. That doesn't mean I'm safer during these times, but I don't feel much safer being on the interstate in my car during a downpour either.
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Old 12-29-11, 12:23 AM   #3
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Under the conditions you describe, I think the people that are not wearing reflective gear and using good lights are taking their lives in their hands. I don't ride in town without those and a helmet light to get people's attention. If you are wearing good reflective gear, there are very few conditions that aren't reasonably safe.
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Old 12-29-11, 12:29 AM   #4
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Originally Posted by david58 View Post
I came to the conclusion that there are some times where cycling is just plain dumb. Drivers, no matter how conscientious, are going to have a hard time seeing even a well-lit cyclist in these conditions.
Perhaps, although it seems to me that a really well-lit cyclist would be at least as visible as a car and therefore even moderately conscientious drivers should be able to see them. Night riding without adequate lighting does strike me as a bad idea.

But it seems to me that the real problem is that we have established societal norms where we hardly ever consider conditions to be such that driving shouldn't be attempted - or even such that drivers should slow down to a fraction of their normal speed so that they can still see obstacles at a distance and with sufficient clarity so that they can be avoided.

Given the conditions you cite I wonder how well you and your fellow drivers would have done in a test of reaction times to the appearance of sudden obstacles in comparison to a group of drivers with a BAC of, say 0.12, under normal, good weather conditions. Yet most of us wouldn't think of going out to drive our cars with that BAC level whereas we don't even hesitate about doing so in bad weather conditions.
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Old 12-29-11, 12:50 AM   #5
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I agree with all that prathmann said. I'll add one other thing that has occurred to me quite often lately. As cities, businesses, sports arenas and residences add more and more gratuitous lighting, we cyclists become more and more likely to be mentally processed out by overwhelmed motorists as noise. The more streaks of light appear in front of a motorist, the more likely he/she is to just look for pairs of tail lights indicating the car in front of them, which means our closely-spaced blinkies become invisible. This is particularly likely to be true when the pavement is wet, since it can look like a house of mirrors out there.

Wouldn't it be lovely if motorists understood the basic speed law that is on the books of (nearly?) every state?
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Old 12-29-11, 03:11 AM   #6
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Originally Posted by david58 View Post
Tonight I was driving in Corvallis, OR, a cycling-friendly college town (a dangerous combination IMHO). Windy, very windy, and torrential rain. Very difficult to see as a driver.

Was spooked a couple of times by cyclists passing me, with no apparent headlight and marginal tail light. Saw other unlit bikes (this was all after dark).

I noticed how hard it was for me to make out the lines on the road whilst driving, and how the glare of headlights and taillights, and the bright advertising signs, and the constant change in lighting from moving from under a street light to areas in between.

I also noticed how my eyes (I'm 53) don't care for the new bright blue headlights, and especially the cars that either are using driving lights or leaving the lights on high beam.

I came to the conclusion that there are some times where cycling is just plain dumb. Drivers, no matter how conscientious, are going to have a hard time seeing even a well-lit cyclist in these conditions. I just scratched these weather conditions off my ride day list - even though it will impact my commute and my monthly mileage.

Sure, the right to ride is there - but even the most careful driver is having trouble in these conditions, and I couldn't help but think that the folks I saw out there today hadn't really thought it through very well.
What about a drivers responsibility to DRIVE at a safe and reasonable speed for the conditions present? Such as if it is an overcast raining day i.e. heavy rain. So much so that you can't see the road in front of you. Why are you driving at a speed that makes it difficult if not impossible to stop in a reasonable amount of time?

The reverse of your question is this: Are there times that is just dumb to drive?
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Old 12-29-11, 05:01 AM   #7
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I truely inclement conditions most motorists simply don't consider that an individual would be cycling. They are scared to be out there in a car. Even though they see you, they dismiss you as a misperception because they just "know" that there can't be a bicycle on the road in these conditions.

I know this because many drivers have explained it to me as they tried to apologize to me for nearly killing me, many from a ditch, and many who were other employees and supervisors were I worked, and who knew I rode that road to work.

Who's right, the driver who encounters a cyclist in extreme conditions that most drivers won't drive, or the cyclist who rides in those conditions anyway (me, often)? The point is moot. If you ride or drive in extreme conditions, you take a serious risk that transends the norm. Accept it and move on, or park the bike and climb in the cage, but you can't blame drivers for not seeing you when you are "hidden" in severe conditions that most reasonable people are terrified to even be in at all.

OP: Lightening and tornados, and thats about it so far......
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Old 12-29-11, 06:03 AM   #8
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In the conditions the OP described, it sounded like it was dumb, for both. The cyclists' could have easily fallen from skidding on the wet roads. The motorist could have easily skidded.

In general, I don't ride in rain unless I am already out when it was originally clear skies. The only time apart from rain itself, is inclement weather in general. In terms of a specific time of day, when it is already dark.
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Old 12-29-11, 08:44 AM   #9
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I agree with all that prathmann said. I'll add one other thing that has occurred to me quite often lately. As cities, businesses, sports arenas and residences add more and more gratuitous lighting, we cyclists become more and more likely to be mentally processed out by overwhelmed motorists as noise. The more streaks of light appear in front of a motorist, the more likely he/she is to just look for pairs of tail lights indicating the car in front of them, which means our closely-spaced blinkies become invisible. This is particularly likely to be true when the pavement is wet, since it can look like a house of mirrors out there.
This is my largest concern as a cyclist in inclement weather. When I ride to work in the morning, I am usually rolling in well before the traffic picks up. I stand out because I am alone out there, mostly, and the route I take doesn't have me in areas with lots of supplemental lighting.

Going home at this time of the year, I feel like I get lost in all the red tail lights. When someone sees my lights in the bike lane, I believe in many cases they are looking at that light thinking it is just the right hand tail light of a car in front.

Riding in the rain here in Oregon is something you simply do if you ride more than three months a year. But I concluded last night that the weather can be sufficiently inclement that I am not sufficiently visible: I can ride fine in nasty weather, just like most of you - but as the "clutter" on the radar screen increases, the likelihood of an error by a driver (or cyclist) increases.

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Wouldn't it be lovely if motorists understood the basic speed law that is on the books of (nearly?) every state?
Many motorists do. I am frankly impressed with the number of drivers here that do dial it back in bad weather. But it doesn't take but one idiot running above what is safe to cause an issue.

Equally lovely (pause here whilst I don my flameproof suit) would be cyclists that followed the basic rules of the road that are on the books of every state? (maybe hijacked my own thread....).
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Old 12-29-11, 08:50 AM   #10
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What about a drivers responsibility to DRIVE at a safe and reasonable speed for the conditions present? Such as if it is an overcast raining day i.e. heavy rain. So much so that you can't see the road in front of you. Why are you driving at a speed that makes it difficult if not impossible to stop in a reasonable amount of time?

The reverse of your question is this: Are there times that is just dumb to drive?
If I cannot see the road in front of me, like most drivers, I pull over. Just like drivers do in Tampa - when those storms hit that don't allow drivers to see there, they pull over or (as I have observed) they stop where they are.

By the same token, I have ridden in cars at 60mph in the Tule fog in CA on the way to ski, where you could see maybe two stripes on the road. Stupid. That would definitely register as a time too dumb to drive.

Dense fog. Torrential rain. Icy roads. Easy list of times it is too dumb to drive. But my question in the OP was to consider it from the cyclist perspective - not to flip to ragging on JAMs, but just under what conditions do you consider it too dumb to ride. Apparently there aren't many such conditions we wish to admit.
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Old 12-29-11, 08:54 AM   #11
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Equally lovely (pause here whilst I don my flameproof suit) would be cyclists that followed the basic rules of the road that are on the books of every state? (maybe hijacked my own thread....).
+1
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Old 12-29-11, 08:59 AM   #12
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It's not a question of being dumb. Cycling on the road is risky. The risk can be lessened to some degree by improving conspicuity and choosing where and under what conditions to ride. It's a matter of personal judgement as to what constitutes an acceptable risk/benefit tradeoff.
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Old 12-29-11, 09:14 AM   #13
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It's not just weather that makes it dumb to ride/drive. I've learned to avoid riding during the last couple of weeks before Christmas. There's a lot more traffic on the road, people are REALLY in a hurry and are driving very aggressively. I had my only serious cycling accident at this time of year. This year, it was scary even driving my car around the last few days before Christmas - people running lights, cutting other people off, generally driving like lunatics ...
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Old 12-29-11, 10:41 AM   #14
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It's funny to think that without the cars this whole situation would be perfectly safe. A bunch of cyclists riding around in the rain presents no real danger at all...

Anyways, I certainly understand the 'light pollution' thing, but I really think that the high quality blinkies cut right through it all.
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Old 12-29-11, 11:21 AM   #15
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In the conditions the OP described, it sounded like it was dumb, for both. The cyclists' could have easily fallen from skidding on the wet roads. The motorist could have easily skidded.

In general, I don't ride in rain unless I am already out when it was originally clear skies. The only time apart from rain itself, is inclement weather in general. In terms of a specific time of day, when it is already dark.
You just ruled out riding bikes or driving for about 9 months out of the year here where the O.P. lives. Not practical. Our roads are also wet so much that they aren't particularly slick, as they are being washed pretty clean most of the time. Especially last night! Anybody else feel like they need scuba gear?

David, I'm only 48 but my night vision is going so bad that I'm afraid to drive in conditions like you describe. I have become one of those old guys that drive 35 in a 55 zone, and that's pushing my sightline sometimes. Except that I'll pull over to let other people pass. But I can see well enough to ride my bicycle. I have two of those flashing Radbot tail lights mounted to the ends of an 18" wide light bar I attached to my rear rack, in addition to my generator powered tail light. That's plenty out where I ride in the sticks, even in the fog. I still don't know if that would compete with the city traffic, reflective wet streets, and lights everywhere. My bicycle is way more visible from behind than my motorcycle now. I need to work on the motorcycle.

I'm happy my commute is rural, though of course if I do get hit it is way more likely to kill me.
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Old 12-29-11, 12:44 PM   #16
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it seems like it would pretty much rule out riding in Pennsylvania too. You get used to picking a line that isn't quite as slick and staying off of road markings. The only time I've fallen in the last couple of years was due to wet snow early in the season when there was probably some residual oil left on the roads.
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Old 12-29-11, 12:57 PM   #17
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If I cannot see the road in front of me, like most drivers, I pull over. Just like drivers do in Tampa - when those storms hit that don't allow drivers to see there, they pull over or (as I have observed) they stop where they are.

By the same token, I have ridden in cars at 60mph in the Tule fog in CA on the way to ski, where you could see maybe two stripes on the road. Stupid. That would definitely register as a time too dumb to drive.

Dense fog. Torrential rain. Icy roads. Easy list of times it is too dumb to drive. But my question in the OP was to consider it from the cyclist perspective - not to flip to ragging on JAMs, but just under what conditions do you consider it too dumb to ride. Apparently there aren't many such conditions we wish to admit.
My question is just as fair and relevant as your question is/was. As if for whatever reason, i.e. weather conditions that it's "dumb" to ride then it is probably also "dumb" for people to drive as well. And likewise is there a time when it is "dumb" for people to walk?

Sadly, I have seen too many drivers who do not pull over and who continue to drive as if it isn't raining and that the road is drive. A good example of this is from a few years ago on I4. One state agency was doing a controlled burn. Unfortunately an unexpected and rather dense fog rolled in. Instead of canceling the burn it continued. Drivers instead of slowing down and pulling off of the interstate continued to drive through the fog and smoke. Causing a MASSIVE pileup.

It was so large, that IIRC that it was determined that it was actually made up of several crashes. Of course the first few drivers through who actually caused the pileup were upset to learn that they were going to be ticketed for their part in causing the crash(es), with many of them saying that even if the fine was $10.00 they'd fight it.

I would say that if drivers obeyed the existing traffic laws, slowed down when weather/road conditions called for it. That overall it would be safer for walkers, cyclists and motorists alike.
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Old 12-29-11, 01:20 PM   #18
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It's not just weather that makes it dumb to ride/drive. I've learned to avoid riding during the last couple of weeks before Christmas. There's a lot more traffic on the road, people are REALLY in a hurry and are driving very aggressively. I had my only serious cycling accident at this time of year. This year, it was scary even driving my car around the last few days before Christmas - people running lights, cutting other people off, generally driving like lunatics ...
I find just the opposite. I'm not saying you're wrong ... I've also noticed that people drive more aggressively, and tend to congregate in the shopping districts, as Christmas approaches. But if you choose your routes to avoid places where people shop, the rest of the streets look like they belong to a ghost town.
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Old 12-29-11, 01:23 PM   #19
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[QUOTE=Digital_Cowboy;13651922]
Quote:
My question is just as fair and relevant as your question is/was. As if for whatever reason, i.e. weather conditions that it's "dumb" to ride then it is probably also "dumb" for people to drive as well. And likewise is there a time when it is "dumb" for people to walk?
If answering a question with a question is an answer...

I presume then, that there are no conditions that are unsafe for a cyclist to ride in as long as drivers think it isn't unsafe for them?

Dang, yet another A&S thread unraveling - either hijacked or a hard turn away from the question.

Quote:
Sadly, I have seen too many drivers who do not pull over and who continue to drive as if it isn't raining and that the road is drive. A good example of this is from a few years ago on I4. One state agency was doing a controlled burn. Unfortunately an unexpected and rather dense fog rolled in. Instead of canceling the burn it continued. Drivers instead of slowing down and pulling off of the interstate continued to drive through the fog and smoke. Causing a MASSIVE pileup.
So have I. Part of the original question - when does it become too dumb/risky/whatever to ride. I submit that the drivers have an influence on that decision - the heavy rain and wind last night made it more hazardous to drive, and IMHO too hazardous to ride a bicycle safely.

Quote:
It was so large, that IIRC that it was determined that it was actually made up of several crashes. Of course the first few drivers through who actually caused the pileup were upset to learn that they were going to be ticketed for their part in causing the crash(es), with many of them saying that even if the fine was $10.00 they'd fight it.
Typical of crashes in the fog in the central valley of CA. But would this have been a safe condition to cycle in? If the drivers have a hard time seeing other cars or the road, does it follow that they might have a hard time seeing and reacting properly to a cyclist?

Quote:
I would say that if drivers obeyed the existing traffic laws, slowed down when weather/road conditions called for it. That overall it would be safer for walkers, cyclists and motorists alike.
I would tend to agree. And if pedestrians wore bright and reflective clothing and didn't jaywalk, and cyclists never went ninja or played salmon, and we all sat around and sang kum ba ya we'd at least have more love at the scene of the accident.

Back to the original question: Are there times it simply isn't wise to ride?
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Old 12-29-11, 01:38 PM   #20
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As a commuter, I ride in all weather except ice.

The problems you describe aren't with cycling in general, but with cycling unprepared -- bikes with inadequate or no lighting don't belong on the road when it's dark or raining. Get good lights that are visible but avoid glare; add plenty of reflective material; ride predictably where motorists will be looking for other legal traffic; leave extra clearance when passing; be extra-careful at intersections; etc.

Most drivers compound these problems by failing to abide by the most basic of safety rules, driving no faster than conditions allow. No matter how hard the rain, a motorist is still responsible for seeing other legal road users in time to avoid a collision. Sometimes that means driving 5mph with high beams on just to see 50 feet; sometimes it means pulling off the road entirely until conditions improve. But most drivers act as if the posted speed limit means it's OK to drive that fast in all conditions. This widespread contempt for the law is definitely one of the factors I consider when planning my commute.
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Old 12-29-11, 01:42 PM   #21
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It would be dumb to ride your bike if the only bike you had was completely apart and you had no way obtain another one.
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Old 12-29-11, 01:46 PM   #22
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It's not a question of being dumb. Cycling on the road is risky. The risk can be lessened to some degree by improving conspicuity and choosing where and under what conditions to ride. It's a matter of personal judgement as to what constitutes an acceptable risk/benefit tradeoff.
Keep in mind that cycling is still safer than driving, overall.

Decades of peer-reviewed public health research show lower all-cause mortality for bicycle commuters, despite all the risks we focus on here. Partly that's because the risks aren't as great as they seem, partly it's because the risks of driving are greater than they seem, and partly it's because of the immense health benefits of cycling twice a day, all year long.

The risks of accidental death are higher for cyclists, but to me, whether I die this year is more significant than how, so all-cause mortality risk is more relevant than accident-only mortality risk. And by that standard, there's almost no weather where it would be smarter to drive than ride. If the weather is too awful to bike, it's too awful to risk going to work at all.
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Old 12-29-11, 01:49 PM   #23
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You just ruled out riding bikes or driving for about 9 months out of the year here where the O.P. lives. Not practical. Our roads are also wet so much that they aren't particularly slick, as they are being washed pretty clean most of the time. Especially last night! Anybody else feel like they need scuba gear?
True, true. When I lived in London 35yrs. ago, I felt like I needed scuba gear, just to walk one mile from home to school in the rain and it wasn't fun.
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Old 12-29-11, 02:46 PM   #24
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Originally Posted by jputnam View Post
........The problems you describe aren't with cycling in general, but with cycling unprepared -- bikes with inadequate or no lighting don't belong on the road when it's dark or raining.

......Most drivers compound these problems by failing to abide by the most basic of safety rules, driving no faster than conditions allow......
......sometimes it means pulling off the road entirely until conditions improve.......
I wholeheartedly agree. Unprepare riders, and drivers, are the greatest threat in inclement weather. Riders who don't prepare their bikes properly or dress appropriately end up too preoccupied by the conditions and don't pay attention to what is going on on the road ahead and behind them.

Drivers who are unprepared find themselves running late, and they drive too fast for the conditions and too preoccupied to maintain control of their cars. Sometimes they are forced to "pulling off the road entirely until conditions improve" because they end up in a ditch...... Happen every year here when the first snow hits.



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Originally Posted by jputnam View Post
Keep in mind that cycling is still safer than driving, overall........
...........If the weather is too awful to bike, it's too awful to risk going to work at all.
Too true. Several times I have shown up for work, only to find that I was the only one that made it in on time (or at all).
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Old 12-29-11, 03:11 PM   #25
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I'd not ride in 4+ inches of snow, at night, when the plow trucks are out.

I wouldn't be driving then, either.

In fact, my bike is better than my car in rain, snow, and ice, but there's no way I'm going up against plows or slowing them down, in the dark, and deeper snow just sucks too bad.
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