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Living Car Free Do you live car free or car light? Do you prefer to use alternative transportation (bicycles, walking, other human-powered or public transportation) for everyday activities whenever possible? Discuss your lifestyle here.

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Old 02-06-07, 11:25 AM   #1
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What is at the Root of the "Car Problem"?

I don't know if this has been covered a million times in here already, but I wondered what people think about the roots of the "Car Problem"? I think its a need for instant gratification. What do you think?
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Old 02-06-07, 11:43 AM   #2
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You're going to have to define the question of "Car Problem" a whole lot better. Are you asking why people buy pre-made automobiles instead of assembling their own?
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Old 02-06-07, 12:12 PM   #3
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I guess that defining the "car problem" and getting to the root of it are almost the same thing. Instant gratification, yes, and cars really are quicker, and they give people the illusion of freedom and independence. The fact that the automobile companies are the largest advertisers on the globe contributes to the problem also.
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Old 02-06-07, 12:17 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Rio
I don't know if this has been covered a million times in here already, but I wondered what people think about the roots of the "Car Problem"? I think its a need for instant gratification. What do you think?
That's an easy one: self-interest. The root of the "car problem" is the basic flaw in our species: most people, most of the time, will put what they want over the needs of others.
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Old 02-06-07, 01:37 PM   #5
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I can't speak to the development of the problem but now it boils down to...you can't get there from here.
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Old 02-06-07, 02:45 PM   #6
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There's a lot of different ways of looking at the "car problem".

1. low density housing with little public transportation pretty much requires a car

2. in America, culturally speaking, you're a looser if you don't own a car. Culture also requires us to be socially busy, going to many places that require us to spend money.

3. we've been sold a vision of what the car is supposed to represent-- FREEDOM! In fact, the opposite is true. If Americans really placed so much value on freedom, we wouldn't be in so much debt.


In my opinion, one of three things can put more people on bikes.

1. a change in social attitude toward bikes

2. high density living. If there is no room for cars, less people will drive.

3. energy crisis

I'm betting on #3 because we won't voluntarily drive less. We will have to be forced to.
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Old 02-06-07, 03:54 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Roody
I guess that defining the "car problem" and getting to the root of it are almost the same thing.
Yes. The process of accurately describing a problem helps solve it. Dumping the car must have solved most of my car problems. Inconsiderate drivers? Poorly designed suburbs? Increased risk of lung disease? These are problems, but the original poster typed problem not problems as though there is a single problem with multiple "roots".
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Old 02-06-07, 04:56 PM   #8
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or too many cars in general. that's 100-some-odd years of marketing. mass consumption on a global scale. we've had advertising shoved down our throats all our lives, conditioning us to want more and better. i have a feeling that one of the root problems is the system of stock markets. i'm no economist, but when corporations have an obligation to their stakeholders to maximise their profits at the minimal expense... it's a recipe for disaster. all the other "problems" (accidents, obesity, urban sprawl, pollution, global conflict etc) are just part of the ripple effect. oh and don't forget that a massive population boom has compounded the whole thing.

now aren't i a ray-of-sunshine-come-michael-moore!*sigh*

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Old 02-06-07, 05:01 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jondoh
There's a lot of different ways of looking at the "car problem".

1. low density housing with little public transportation pretty much requires a car

2. in America, culturally speaking, you're a looser if you don't own a car. Culture also requires us to be socially busy, going to many places that require us to spend money.

3. we've been sold a vision of what the car is supposed to represent-- FREEDOM! In fact, the opposite is true. If Americans really placed so much value on freedom, we wouldn't be in so much debt.


In my opinion, one of three things can put more people on bikes.

1. a change in social attitude toward bikes

2. high density living. If there is no room for cars, less people will drive.

3. energy crisis

I'm betting on #3 because we won't voluntarily drive less. We will have to be forced to.

I agree with this and will take it one further by paring it down to one problem: SPRAWL
If you fix the urban sprawl problem, the rest falls into place.
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Old 02-06-07, 05:01 PM   #10
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sprawl
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Old 02-06-07, 05:09 PM   #11
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Originally Posted by zippered
i have a feeling that one of the root problems is the system of stock markets. i'm no economist, but when corporations have an obligation to their stakeholders to maximise their profits at the minimal expense... it's a recipe for disaster. all the other "problems" (accidents, obesity, urban sprawl, pollution, global conflict etc) are just part of the ripple effect.
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“The whole global warming thing is created to destroy America's free enterprise system and our economic stability”

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dang, even mr. falwell himself agees with me
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Old 02-06-07, 08:35 PM   #12
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Most people don't know how the car lifestyle was gradually, and brilliantly foistered on the US culture. Here's basically what happened:

In the late 1800s-early 1900s most major US cities had efficient trolley (street car) systems. In the 1930s, huge conglomerates bought the street cars, junked them, and then paved over the tracks. To soothe over public outcry, they gave the cities busses. These busses worked fine (I assume) until they eventually started to break down. After that, automakers initiated an aggressive marketing campaign encouraging people to buy private autos: 'Why rely on public transportation, when you can have the independence of your own car?' Thus, the car culture was born and persists to this day.

Say what you will about their morality (or amorality), but the plan and marketing strategy by the auto/oil conglomerates was brilliant. They gradually and subtley created a situation where almost every resident in most US cities would need a product (car) they would sell. It textbook business 101 - create a need, then sell a product to satisfy that need.

We can blame the greedy auto/oil companies all we want, but US citizens let this happen. By letting self-interested, profit oriented companies assume the transit plan for US cities rather than treating transportation as a collective public resource, it lead to the situation we have now where almost everyone needs a car.
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Old 02-06-07, 09:40 PM   #13
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Bad habits that feeds the greed.
A self serving machine of destruction.
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Old 02-06-07, 11:13 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by AlanK
Most people don't know how the car lifestyle was gradually, and brilliantly foistered on the US culture. Here's basically what happened:

In the late 1800s-early 1900s most major US cities had efficient trolley (street car) systems. In the 1930s, huge conglomerates bought the street cars, junked them, and then paved over the tracks. To soothe over public outcry, they gave the cities busses. These busses worked fine (I assume) until they eventually started to break down. After that, automakers initiated an aggressive marketing campaign encouraging people to buy private autos: 'Why rely on public transportation, when you can have the independence of your own car?' Thus, the car culture was born and persists to this day.

Say what you will about their morality (or amorality), but the plan and marketing strategy by the auto/oil conglomerates was brilliant. They gradually and subtley created a situation where almost every resident in most US cities would need a product (car) they would sell. It textbook business 101 - create a need, then sell a product to satisfy that need.

We can blame the greedy auto/oil companies all we want, but US citizens let this happen. By letting self-interested, profit oriented companies assume the transit plan for US cities rather than treating transportation as a collective public resource, it lead to the situation we have now where almost everyone needs a car.

I dont think it's a question of need so much as want. In the case of need, people would drive the same vehicle until it no longer ran.... and there would be more kias and hyundais instead of all the mercedes and bmws out there. There would also be more compact cars vs. all the giant SUVs out there. I think very little in our society these days is bought out of necessity as compared to what is bought out of desire. That's also what has fueled our progress... otherwise we'd all be happy rollin' out of bed at the butt crack of dawn farming for just enough to live off of. Instead, we all want something different.. and that's what drives most to work for it.
*disclaimer: I dont really belong here. I find the car free forum interesting and somewhat frustrating to read.
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Old 02-07-07, 03:41 PM   #15
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Too many people is the root of the fact that the planet is doomed.
Easter Island on a global scale.
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Old 02-07-07, 05:11 PM   #16
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Too many people is the root of the fact that the planet is doomed.
Easter Island on a global scale.

All those cute babies are really the most horrifying sight, aren't they.
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Old 02-07-07, 06:30 PM   #17
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Too many people is the root of the fact that the planet is doomed.
That's certainly a significant part of the problem, most significantly there are too many people to live a sustainable lifestyle. And what people like No Exit seem to ignore is that what we want as individuals is primarily the result of socialization. US culture is highly materialistic, and people are taught from they day they are born (observing their parents, advertising, etc) that succes in the US is equivalent to money and physical belongs (car, house, etc.). Many indigenous hunter/gatherer societies aren't materialistic. Consider a comparison between Western culture and many indigenous hunter/gather societies (not all):

Western culture operates from a linear approach and perspective, meaning that everything is always moving forward. While this means things will always change and there are new developments, there is a fundamental flaw to this approach; eventually you get to the end of the line, in this case the end of the line means the end of Western society. It appears we might be reaching that point, perhaps within the next 100 years or so.

Most indigenous hunter/gatherer societies operate from a cyclical perspective. They saw themselves and their society as part of a continuous ecosystem, and land and other resources were to used respectfully, but owned by no one. Most of these cultures took what they needed directly from natural resources, consequently their population level was kept sustainable with what ever ecosystem they occupied. This model is generally more sustainable over the long term than Western culture. Before they were eradicated by Westerners many hunter/gatherer societies lived sustainably for hundreds of years, and in some cases thousands of years. And while these socieities didn't have access to the level of health care developed countries do, they were typically healthy, only had to work 3-5 hour days, and had low levels of mental illness. There are still a small number of indigenous persons in the southwestern US who have lived the same way for about 2000-3000 years.

Even if there were significant interest, unfortunately there are now too many people for the hunter/gatherer lifestyle to undertaken by the multitude. The H/G lifestyle requires a signficant amount of undeveloped land that is only sparcely populated by humans. With all the people on this planet, we're stuck with modern agriculture; all we can do is try to minimize how destructive it is.
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Old 02-07-07, 07:06 PM   #18
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Originally Posted by Artkansas
All those cute babies are really the most horrifying sight, aren't they.
eh, I dunno. I don't think that the world is "overpopulated" per se. I just think that our resources and land are divided extremely unevenly. Think about the last time you flew a plane over the country, or saw a picture to that effect; most of America is empty space. There's room for plenty more here, despite what you hear on TV. Certain places in the world are overpopulated, sure, but the planet as a whole is far from saturated.
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Old 02-08-07, 12:48 AM   #19
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God given right
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Old 02-08-07, 11:36 AM   #20
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Self-evident, inalienable
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Old 02-08-07, 02:26 PM   #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ivegotabike
sprawl
Yes and no. Cars made sprawl possible, so cars cause sprawl. Sprawl makes cars "necessary," so sprawl causes cars.
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Old 02-08-07, 02:30 PM   #22
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God given right

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Self-evident, inalienable
Americans in particular think they have a right to drive whenever and wherever they want. At this time they would fight for this "right." In fact, they do fight for this right, in Iraq, and I think soon in Iran.
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Old 02-08-07, 03:00 PM   #23
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I think you guys have it all wrong. To get to the root of the "car problem" you have to first recognize that motorized vehicles are, in fact, superior means of transportation. Let's face it, they are quicker, they can go longer distances, and they require less effort. This naturally leads to the question, what is bad about motorized vehicles? Therein lies the answer to the "car problem".

The bad thing about motorized vehicles is that they destroy shared natural resources (ie the environment). Everything in life has bad qualities, so the fact that motorized vehicles have bad qualities does not, in and of itself, constitute a problem. No, the problem arises from the fact that the operators of motorized vehicles do not bear the burden of the bad qualities. The operator of a motorized vehicle does not only destroy his share of natural resources, but destroys a bit of everyone's share of natural resources. When someone drives a car, the pollution they create isn't confined to the air that they breath, but is spread out to all the air that everyone breathes. Thus the owner of a motorized vehicle does not pay the full price of operating that vehicle. The cost is shared among the entire population (present and future) and that is precisely the root of the "car problem".

This type of problem isn't unique to cars. Just like the "car problem", there are many problems which are the result of the abuse of shared resources and these types of problems are the very reason that government exists. The solution is simple: The government should simply devise the necessary machinery to clean up any pollution created by automobiles and pay for the development and operation of such machinery with additional taxes on automobiles and petroleum products. Unfortunately, the government is not doing its job by forcing automobile operators to bare the full cost of operating their automobiles and the general public would rather continue to take more than their fair share of environmental resources, having future generations pay the penalty. Quite frankly, there is nothing we can do to stop them and even if we could stop them it would be decidedly undemocratic.
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Old 02-08-07, 03:27 PM   #24
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Not sure that I can agree. In some cases, and in some environments, cars are superior means of transportation.

In some cases walking is the most reasonable - eg if I want to visit my neighbour across the street - I could a) cross the street, or b) walk a block to pick up my car, circle the block hoping to find a parking spot closer to my neighbour's house, and then cross the street to get there. In this case it seems insane to attempt to drive, as it increases the time required and the distance I have to walk.

For me to get to work I could a) walk - 15minutes/free, b) take the subway - 5-10 minutes $2.00, c) buy a car and drive over - 10 minutes + $10 day or more (probably closer to 20 all things considered), d) ride my bike - 5 minutes $1/day (maybe a bit less). It seems clear to me that the fastest is cycling, the cheapest is walking and the most convenient is the subway. However, one of my coworkers lives a block away from me, owns a car that she uses only to get to work and get groceries (also a 5 min drive / 10 minute walk to the nearest big box grocer - lots of little guys closer) at great expense to herself and depriving herself of retirement savings so that she can save 10 minutes a workday over walking (that's $60 an hour). Lots of people in Toronto drive short distances to work, when abandoning their second car (or only car) would save them time and money - it's not cost or convenience that puts them in a car.

Another case - IIRC in Barcelona there are fewer parking spots than cars. Buying a car entails that you will spend a lot of time parking/engaging the help of bystanders to lift your car into an available spot, in a compact lovely city with many alternatives for getting around.

People don't just drive because it's a superior means to get around. In some cases this may be true, but in a lot of cases it's because of a) status or b) they can't imagine any other way, and have never tried whatever alternatives are available. Often people drive even though it is a lot more expensive, time consuming and inconvenient that other means. When we have functions after school, the people who walk to the function often get there faster than the drivers because walking is just faster on congested city streets and walkers don't spend time walking through the parking lot, and at the other end walkers don't have to look for parking and finally they don't have to walk from said parking spot to the destination. So why do responsible people drive to these functions (even if alcoholic beverages are served)? Because they can't imagine any other way - they will sometimes complain that it took them longer to drive than to walk to destination - but the solution is to fix the roads/parking. That's all very well but there is a simpler, immediate, and cheaper solution. If you are in a hurry, walk.

That being said I think the status thing is a real barrier to getting people to choose alternatives. Maybe we should point out that if you get a carbon fiber or Ti frame you will have lots of status

Density is key if we are willing to allow the development of competition for transportation options. Otherwise we leave automotive transport with a monopoly.

I haven't addressed 'less effort'. I think this is true, but the amount of effort required for a 15 minute walk in good weather is achievable for most people in reasonable health.

</rant>

Quote:
Originally Posted by makeinu
I think you guys have it all wrong. To get to the root of the "car problem" you have to first recognize that motorized vehicles are, in fact, superior means of transportation. Let's face it, they are quicker, they can go longer distances, and they require less effort. This naturally leads to the question, what is bad about motorized vehicles? Therein lies the answer to the "car problem".

[edit]

Quite frankly, there is nothing we can do to stop them and even if we could stop them it would be decidedly undemocratic.
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Old 02-08-07, 07:18 PM   #25
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Originally Posted by rajman
Not sure that I can agree. In some cases, and in some environments, cars are superior means of transportation.

In some cases walking is the most reasonable - eg if I want to visit my neighbour across the street - I could a) cross the street, or b) walk a block to pick up my car, circle the block hoping to find a parking spot closer to my neighbour's house, and then cross the street to get there. In this case it seems insane to attempt to drive, as it increases the time required and the distance I have to walk.

For me to get to work I could a) walk - 15minutes/free, b) take the subway - 5-10 minutes $2.00, c) buy a car and drive over - 10 minutes + $10 day or more (probably closer to 20 all things considered), d) ride my bike - 5 minutes $1/day (maybe a bit less). It seems clear to me that the fastest is cycling, the cheapest is walking and the most convenient is the subway. However, one of my coworkers lives a block away from me, owns a car that she uses only to get to work and get groceries (also a 5 min drive / 10 minute walk to the nearest big box grocer - lots of little guys closer) at great expense to herself and depriving herself of retirement savings so that she can save 10 minutes a workday over walking (that's $60 an hour). Lots of people in Toronto drive short distances to work, when abandoning their second car (or only car) would save them time and money - it's not cost or convenience that puts them in a car.

Another case - IIRC in Barcelona there are fewer parking spots than cars. Buying a car entails that you will spend a lot of time parking/engaging the help of bystanders to lift your car into an available spot, in a compact lovely city with many alternatives for getting around.

People don't just drive because it's a superior means to get around. In some cases this may be true, but in a lot of cases it's because of a) status or b) they can't imagine any other way, and have never tried whatever alternatives are available. Often people drive even though it is a lot more expensive, time consuming and inconvenient that other means. When we have functions after school, the people who walk to the function often get there faster than the drivers because walking is just faster on congested city streets and walkers don't spend time walking through the parking lot, and at the other end walkers don't have to look for parking and finally they don't have to walk from said parking spot to the destination. So why do responsible people drive to these functions (even if alcoholic beverages are served)? Because they can't imagine any other way - they will sometimes complain that it took them longer to drive than to walk to destination - but the solution is to fix the roads/parking. That's all very well but there is a simpler, immediate, and cheaper solution. If you are in a hurry, walk.

That being said I think the status thing is a real barrier to getting people to choose alternatives. Maybe we should point out that if you get a carbon fiber or Ti frame you will have lots of status

Density is key if we are willing to allow the development of competition for transportation options. Otherwise we leave automotive transport with a monopoly.

I haven't addressed 'less effort'. I think this is true, but the amount of effort required for a 15 minute walk in good weather is achievable for most people in reasonable health.

</rant>
I said motorized vehicles are superior means of transportation, not necessarily cars. In most of the scenarios you listed above a motorcycle would be the fastest way to get where you are going (or perhaps a segway). Elevators, escalators, conveyor belts, etc would be better for other scenarios that you listed, but these are not as commonly employed due to cost. In particular, due to the fact that the cost is almost fully borne by the owner/operator of such devices instead of being offloaded to shared environmental resources.

Also, I think you're confusing people's willingness to put up with the hassle of using their cars in nonideal circumstances. People aren't stupid. It's not that they simply can't conceive of not using their car. It's just that they happen to find their cars to be such useful and versatile transportation tools that they are willing to put up with a little inconvenience every once and a while. They are like boyscouts with swiss army knives; Are there better tools for eating dinner than a swiss army knife? Sure, but in some contexts it's simply more expedient to always use the best overall tool rather than carefully planning the ideal tool for each scenario.

People may claim that they can't imagine anything else, but I guarantee that if the overall utility of using the car were much less than other alternatives then they would switch to other alternatives. For example, take manhattan businessmen; They have no problem using the subway because it is vastly superior to trying to drive in manhattan at rush hour.

The status thing is secondary. If people had to drive their cars inside their homes where they couldn't just release the noxious waste to the rest of the world then you'd see how quickly status would go out the window.

Also, people don't want to live in high density. That's why they all bought cars and made the cities sprawl. If people generally liked living in high density then cars never would have become popular to begin with. To say that lack of density is the problem is backwards. People want to sprawl, motorized vehicles enable them to do it, and mother earth pays the bill. You can't convince them that they don't want to sprawl; That motorized vehicles enable them to do it is simply a fact; The only thing you might be able to do is make them pay the bill, instead of letting them mooch off mother earth, but even that will be tough since they are the majority. Fortunately, oil is a finite resource and the public isn't too keen on nuclear power, so I think our chances of winning them over will only increase as the oil runs out.

Last edited by makeinu; 02-08-07 at 07:27 PM.
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