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In the thick of it. Today I found out what it's like in the middle of the Tour de France...

ibikelondon - 6 July, 2015 - 23:40

The cyclists ride at breakneck speeds whilst all around them there is ordered chaos; mechanic’s cars, radio cars, official cars and of course the infamous publicity caravan.  Spectators waive their picnics from the roadside as the riders tear past.  Boozey kids run alongside, shouting and jumping up and down.  More than a few crowd members get perilously close in the quest for a perfect snapshot to share with friends.  I took a ride in the Tour de France, and here’s what it’s like to be right in the middle of the world’s most famous cycling race.



The summers of my youth were always filled with the Tour de France, enjoyed by the whole family as much for the lingering shots of magnificent French scenery as for the riding itself.  We cheered on Greg Lemond and talked endlessly about Lance Armstrong as though he were some kind of cycling superman.  Looking back it seems like a cycling age of innocence, but I loved all the poetry and drama of a journey around a nation by bike. Not just a journey, but a race no less.

This was all before talk of drugs, “enabling” Doctors, self-administered transfusions and blood bags in the hotel room fridge.  Doping cast a deep stain on professional cycling, and it was a long time before I allowed myself to get back in to bike racing.  It’s all the fault of Mark Cavendish, really.  His technical prowess and sheer bravura meant I’d find myself tuning in for the sprints again. Then came Sir Bradley Wiggins.  A Brit winning the tour was the stuff of dreams when I was a kid, but then it actually happened.  Seeing young rider Simon Yates power to the top of Hay Tor during the Tour of Britain in 2013 meant I was roadside - along with about a million other people - to cheer him on when the Tour de France visited our shores last year.

So when official Tour partner Ibis Hotels got in touch asking if I’d be interested in spending the day right in the middle of the race, they didn’t have to ask twice.





The route from Antwerp to Huy was one of the first ‘real’ stages after the ceremony of the Grand Depart in Utrecht (a time trial) and a flat spin across the green fields of Holland.  With Quintana, Contador, Nibali and of course Chris Froome all keen to prove their metal in the initial stages there was plenty of scope for pushing, shoving and hard racing from the off - and the first real uphill finish; the short and steep Mur de Huy.  Both Froome and Cavendish were out of the 2014 Tour within the initial 5 stages, so there was lots to prove.

Going to spectate at the Tour is a funny business.  You’ll stand on a dusty roadside for many hours, and the whole thing flashes past you in a matter of minutes.  The cyclists themselves pass in mere seconds.  Being stuck in the middle of it all gave me a totally different perspective.  The first thing you notice is the speed at which the entire convoy clips along.  These boys - all 198 of them - don’t hang around.  And somewhat paradoxically for cycling the centre of the convoy is a noisy place.  There’s no elysian wheeling through the countryside here - right behind the cyclists are roaring mechanic’s cars, powerful Police motorbikes with sirens, commissaires hurriedly jabbering on their radios, helicopters and not to mention the crowds.  Despite the tumult, they do a great job of cheering and shouting at the riders and its surprising how much of what they say is legible.  Chris Froome must hear people telling him to cheer up all the time.



Not all of the drama in the peloton takes place at the front of the bunch, either.  Domestics - the worker bees of the Tour - are always falling back to pick up supplies from their team cars (themselves zipping along at a steady 40kph or so) and relaying it forward to their team mates.  Bidons are hung out of car windows and you watch as the riders grab hold, perhaps for a second more than is sportsmanlike.  The team crew and the cyclists amiably chat as though riding next to a tonne of car moving at speed with a man inside shouting at you is the most natural thing in the world.  No wonder Britain is doing so well in pro cycling these days.

And what of the Brits?  There’s Froome of course, and Cavendish who’ll be relishing the absence of young German sprinter Marcel Kittel this year.  There’s eight other British names - compared to last year’s four - and this when well-known names like Wiggins and David Millar are past their peloton prime and not in the Tour.  Ian Stannard will be working hard to pull Chris Froome safely across the cobbled sections tomorrow, whilst hour-record-grabbing rider Alex Dowsett will be looking for a good ride after fracturing his collarbone earlier this year.  Geraint Thomas, Luke Rowe and Peter Kennaugh will be riding for Team Sky under the tutorship of Sir David Brailsford, whilst the 22-year-old Yates twins - Simon and Adam - are racing with Australian team Orica-GreenEDGE and are the riders I’ll be watching most closely.  Steve Cummings, riding aged 34, will be in a lead support role in his team MTN-Qhubeka.  Surely a golden age of British pro cycling if ever there was one?





Along the route, entire communities find themselves making the most of an enforced day off.  Their streets, no longer enthral to the motor car, are closed down and become occupied by people again.  Kids chalk drawings on to the tarmac.  Families put out picnic tables and share food with friends and neighbours. In Tienan we saw a Belgian oomph band keeping a whole village entertained.  There’s a certain holiday atmosphere which, coupled with sunshine, makes for a wonderful day out.

Today’s stage raced along at incredible speed.  With nerves in plentiful supply and lead riders keen to establish their position, a crash seemed almost inevitable.  When the crash came, with about 60km still to go, it was a big one, leading the race director to temporarily suspend the Tour whilst medical staff dealt with a multitude of serous injuries.  Yesterday’s Yellow Jersey winner, Fabian Cancellara, completed today’s stage but has now withdrawn from the Tour after it became apparent he’d broken pieces of his back.  White jersey-wearer and young hopeful Tom Dumoulin is also out of the rest of the Tour.  Cycling is a tough sport.




The sheer scale of the entire Tour operation becomes apparent at the finish line when you finally see all those riders, all those support vehicles and all those bikes in the one place.  It’s like a happy cycling chaos, with riders being ushered in to trailers, pursued by journalists, fans, erstwhile bike bloggers and doping control.  Masseurs swing in to action, whilst stage host Mayors beam from the podium for the cameras.  I can understand why Ibis loves supporting the Tour de France - all those riders, team directors and hangers on (not to mention the spectators) have to stay somewhere. Indeed, some 1,500 hotel room beds are reserved every night of the Tour just for organisers and teams.




Ibis, who have been putting me up in their super comfortable hotels here in Belgium (I love their Sweet Beds and have been sleeping like a baby throughout my trip) decided that it wasn’t enough for a cycle racing fan to be allowed in to the thick of the action and had one final surprise in store for me; a transfer to a helicopter about 20kms out from the finish line to watch the peloton from up on high.  Watching the bunch snake its way around corners and up hills through the spectacular, green countryside is a memory that will stay with me forever, and I feel exceptionally lucky to have had such an opportunity.  Thank you, Ibis, for your support of the Tour, for such a welcoming stay and for an incredible day of cycling I’ll never forget!

 
 
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How to get to a place to film

BicycleDutch - 6 July, 2015 - 23:01
“How do you get to all those places in your videos?” Several people have asked me this question recently. The answer is by bicycle, for the final 15 kilometres at … Continue reading →
Categories: Views

You’re not held up by people cycling – you’re held up by other people driving (and yourself)

As Easy As Riding A Bike - 6 July, 2015 - 20:50

Imagine a street that carries 14,000 cyclists a day, on the street itself. That equates to around 1,500 people cycling along the street per hour, or 25 every minute.

Imagine driving down that street. Surely a nightmare for any self-respecting driver who wants to make progress. A miserable experience. You’d never be able to overtake, what with all the cyclists trundling in front of you, often two or three abreast, taking up the whole road.

Well… no. Actually overtaking in a car on this street is pretty easy.

… It’s even easy to overtake with people cycling two abreast, in both directions. Even a very wide three abreast doesn’t present a significant problem.

This doesn’t compute, surely!

How on earth can it be easy to overtake when there are so many bloody cyclists in the middle of the road?

The answer is quite simple – the reason drivers can overtake easily is because there aren’t many other drivers using this street.

Take a look at the photographs again. There isn’t oncoming motor traffic to prevent an overtake. There’s also limited on-street parking (just one set of bays, on one side of the road, in designed bays) meaning the road itself is not obstructed by parked vehicles.

Quite clearly it is other motor vehicles – both moving and stationary – that makes overtaking difficult, because a vast amount of cyclists ‘clogging’ a road doesn’t necessarily represent an impediment to motoring progress.

To compare with a British example – struggling to overtake a cyclist heading away from the camera here?

Or here? (Looking in the opposite direction on the same street)

That’ll be because of the large amount of oncoming motor traffic, preventing you from moving out into the opposing lane, and the amount of parking on both sides of the street, greatly reducing the available width of what is, in reality, a very wide road.

Really, how could it be otherwise? How can a human being two feet wide, on a road that is 35 feet wide, …

…. seriously present an impediment to progress, without other big blocky things (including the vehicle that you yourself are driving) greatly reducing the space available?

In reality, hell is other drivers – not other people people cycling.


Categories: Views

Self driving cars and the child-ball problem

John Adams - 6 July, 2015 - 17:48

“…if a ball were to roll onto a road, a human might expect that a child could follow. Artificial intelligence cannot yet provide that level of inferential thinking.”

This quotation from 2012 has already been overtaken by the extraordinary progress in the development of self-driving cars. But programming a self-driving car to anticipate a child following a ball is the easy part of the problem. 1 The tricky bit is programming the car’s response. … read more

Categories: Views

A "Pinch-Point" design which slows cars without "pinching" bikes

A View from the Cycle Path - 6 July, 2015 - 06:30
On-road cycle-lane approaching a pinch-point. A potentially dangerous situation for cyclists. Note how from this view the driving lanes appears to narrow at the pinch-point. Pinch points are often installed on roads to slow motor vehicles and to provide crossing places for pedestrians. They are often dangerous for cyclists. Road lanes which suddenly narrowed to encourage drivers to slow down David Hembrowhttp://www.blogger.com/profile/14543024940730663645noreply@blogger.com0http://www.aviewfromthecyclepath.com/2015/07/a-pinch-point-design-which-slows-cars.html
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Extra prijzen rond Fietsstadverkiezing

Fietsberaad - 6 July, 2015 - 01:00

De Fietsersbond reikt in het kader van de Fietsstadverkiezing twee extra prijzen uit. Deze prijzen zijn respectievelijk voor de best samenwerkende regio en de gemeente met de beste cijfermatige onderbouwing van haar fietsparkeerbeleid.

Categories: News

Tour de France in Utrecht

BicycleDutch - 5 July, 2015 - 23:01
It seems impossible that you missed that the Tour de France started in Utrecht this weekend. But I did miss it, at least, I couldn’t be there! I was in … Continue reading →
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Everyone cycles in Antwerp (who knew?!)

ibikelondon - 5 July, 2015 - 17:21

I'm in Antwerp, Belgium, which will host stage 3 of the 2015 Tour de France tomorrow.  I'm here for the Tour (follow my Twitter feed for live updates tomorrow) but hadn't appreciated what a great cycling city Antwerp is.



Home to about a million people its Belgium's most populous city, blessed with a compact historic core which is criss-crossed by a web of tram lines and very good cycling infrastructure.  There's tonnes of Tour fans in town, and roadies were out in force riding the route ahead of tomorrow's stage, but I also saw lots of just about everybody else riding a bike as well.

As you'd expect, cyclists share with other traffic on small and quiet roads here, but where volumes or speeds of cars are high the bikes are given their own space.  And I was glad to see there was plenty of new cycling infrastructure in place and that it was well maintained; always a sure sign that a city cares for its cyclists.





From the moment you step off the high speed train at Antwerp Centraal (and oh my goodness me, train fans, what a station it is) the fact that you're in a cycling city is apparent - deep in the bowels of the station there's acres of secure bicycle parking, a mechanic's workshop and a bike hire station. There's a suite of city bike share schemes - depending on how long you need a bike for - but if you're just visiting I recommend Fietshaven's Yellow Bike scheme, where you can rent a fantastic bike for a full 24 hours for just €13.

It was great to see the beautiful merchant's houses in the bike and pedestrian-friendly city centre.  Cyclists are exempt from having to follow most one-way streets here, and bike parking abounds. But it is not just in the old town that the city has been thinking about bikes.  There were acres of heavily-used bike parking outside the nearly-new Berchem Station, and smooth, wide brand-new bike tracks to get you there. 




Beneath the river Scheldt, the 1933 Saint Anne's tunnel accommodates people on bike and foot, and allows you to take your bike down the original wooden escalators before a leisurely ride beneath the river with excellent acoustics!





I found drivers to be courteous and interaction between riders and cars seemed friendly. What's more I saw cyclists of all ages out enjoying a summer's Sunday ride.  Indeed, the leisurely cycle track that follows the railway south out of the city is so popular it could well do with being made even wider - that's what we call in cycle planning circles "a nice problem to have".




Antwerp had never been on my list of places to visit before. I knew it was here, of course, and that it was really just a short trip by train from London.  I had a vague idea that it was famous for diamonds, and shipping, but that was about it.  Well, more fool me.  Antwerp punches above its weight; both as a cycling city and as a destination in its own right.  I couldn't think of a nicer weekend away than riding around here by bike.


For more info on cycling in Antwerp go to Visit Antwerp.
Check LeTour.com for a profile of tomorrow's stage departing from Antwerp.
You can get to Antwerp via the Eurostar in about two hours, with tickets from £80.

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Tweede Kamer vraagt om speciale speedpedelec helm

Fietsberaad - 3 July, 2015 - 14:34

De overheid moet stimuleren dat er snel een goede speedpedelec helm komt. Een motie van die strekking is aangenomen in de Tweede Kamer.

Categories: News

Trying it out

As Easy As Riding A Bike - 3 July, 2015 - 11:54

Last year I wrote about the stalled attempts to improve Bank junction in the City of London. The problem appears to be the time it is taking the City to model the effects of potential changes to the junction – in fact, the City are developing a new model from scratch, which is taking eighteen months, meaning results won’t even be in until Spring 2016.

Our next task will be to build a computer traffic model to assess what is likely to happen if traffic is prevented from crossing the junction for example in certain directions or times of day. Information from pedestrian and cycling movements will also help to develop solutions. This is likely to be a big piece of work and will take some time to complete but it is very important to have credible options for alterations to the junction. We hope to have this work completed by early 2016.

As I wrote then, this is a very time-consuming and expensive way of finding out something that could be established by trial arrangements, on the street itself; this could involve closing or restricting some of the streets in the area to motor traffic. Such a trial could be temporary, meaning that if genuine chaos did ensue, then the layout could be reverted back to normal very quickly, with alternative arrangements tried at a later date. The results of such a trial – given that they correspond to the real world – would also be much more accurate than those provided a model, even a very expensive one.

Of course tragedy struck at this junction last month, with the death of Ying Tao. If action had been taken more quickly to try out arrangements to improve Bank, rather than waiting years to develop and test a model, then improvements could already have been in place by now.

In a similar vein, in their response to the consultation on Quietway 2 in London, Transport for London rejected closing parts of the Quietway as a through-route to motor traffic, for the following reason –

Some respondents to the consultation felt that closing Calthorpe Street and/or Margery Street to general traffic would be a more appropriate intervention. The changes proposed at this junction are due to be delivered this year, in line with the opening of the new Quietway route. These suggestions would have a wider impact of LB Camden and LB Islington’s road network and would require much further investigation. It is considered this would not be deliverable within the timescale, as investigation would be needed of the impact on adjacent streets.

Such a measure would apparently require ‘much further investigation’, because of the impacts on the surrounding road network.

As it happens, I was passing along this very road – Calthorpe Street – earlier this week, and was amazed to discover that it was actually filtered, in the way respondents to the consultation had been calling for.

Well, not in exactly the same way – people cycling were bumping up onto the footway to get around the closure. But the effect is the same. What look like some water main repairs have seen the total closure of this street to motor traffic.

Was there carnage on the surrounding streets? Total gridlock? I didn’t come across any, at least nothing out of the ordinary for London. At the very least a simple trial closure like this could be implemented for, say, six weeks to genuinely investigate whether such a closure would cause gridlock elsewhere. It would also give residents (who, by the way, are in favour of such a closure on this street) a chance to experience the benefits in terms of quieter and safer streets for a short period, buying-in support for a permanent closure.

What seems to be at play here, both at Bank and with TfL’s response to closure requests, is what Rachel Aldred has recently called

The terrifying spectre of delays to motor traffic

Fear of holding up drivers, even for a few more minutes, seems to be crippling, to such an extent that rather than just trying out closures we will spend years developing models, or carrying out ‘much further investigation’, to establish what we could find out quickly and easily by on-the-ground trials.

To be fair, some local authorities are much bolder, and are keen and willing to experiment with reducing routes and capacity for motor traffic. Last year Camden coned off a lane on the entry to Royal College Street, just to see what happened.

Answer – nothing happened. Traffic still flowed.

That means there’s a whole lane’s worth of space that can be (and is now) being re-allocated to cycle provision on St Pancras road, in the form of a stepped cycle track.

And this week Camden announced plans to trial reallocating an entire vehicle lane along the Tavistock Place route to a westbound cycle lane, restricting this road to one-way for motor traffic, in opposing directions (which should mean a large reduction in through motor traffic too). The existing two-way track, grossly over-capacity, will become a one-way track. More about this in a future post.

Waltham Forest are also keen to experiment; their bold mini-Holland scheme of closures to through traffic is now becoming permanent.

And in Leicester – were the Cycling Embassy spent last weekend for their AGM – the council is apparently keen to trial lane closures in advance of building cycling infrastructure. This cycle track on Newarke Street, built on a vehicle lane, was preceded by a coning off of the lane in question, to examine the effects on motor traffic.

Spot the lawbreaker.

And a similar ‘coning off’ was recently performed by Leicester City Council on the nearby Welford Road – a lane was deliberately taken away to see what happened.

Again, we were told that the impacts on motor traffic were minimal – and presumably some cycling infrastructure is now planned for this pretty scary road.

Finally, CycleGaz spotted another recent temporary trial arrangement on Norbury Avenue – this one for three months.

Road closed to cars on Norbury Avenue to prevent it being used as a rat run. pic.twitter.com/yVDis5knli

— CycleGaz™ (@cyclegaz) July 1, 2015

These kind of trials don’t really require that much boldness; they’re cheap, quick to install, and can be reversed at the end of the trial if they prove to be unpopular, or if genuine gridlock does actually result.

Why can’t other councils and transport authorities break out of their paralysing fear of effects on motor traffic, and emulate what Camden, Leicester, Waltham Forest, Croydon and other councils are willing to try out?


Categories: Views

2015 to go down in history for the return of………….

Velo Vision - 1 July, 2015 - 22:36
XXX??XXX and ZZZ??ZZZ cyclingly...............Jase. __o _`\<,_ (*)/ (*) -+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-

All credit, to Jason Patient, many thanks

Categories: News

Cargo Bike Logistics on Harbours and Rivers by Copenhagenize

Copenhagenize - 1 July, 2015 - 18:05

Urban logistics is just one of the many challenges facing our cities. After Copenhagenize worked for three years on the European Union project Cyclelogistics, we have cargo bikes on the brain and provide cargo bike logistics as one of our services. We also live in a city with 40,000 cargo bikes in daily use. As ever, we look for solutions not only for other cities, but our own. During the Cyclelogistics project we determined that there is a massive potential for shifting goods delivery to bikes and cargo bikes. 51% of all motorised private and commercial goods transport in EU cities could be done on bicycles or cargo bikes.

Great. Let's do that. But how to do it best? Lots of small companies are already operating in cities with last-mile service for packages, which is great. DHL is rocking Dutch cities with cargo bike deliveries and UPS and FedEx are getting their game face on, too. But we need to think bigger and better.

The City of Copenhagen created the framework for the idea of setting up a consolodation centre south of the city where logistics companies could drop off their goods in their larger trucks. Last mile service could be provided by smaller vehicles so that the trucks stay the hell out of our city. The industry has been slow to pick up the baton, however.

Copenhagen's City Logistik website hasn't been updated for a while because industry is lagging behind. This film explains their basic concept:

Sådan virker Citylogistik from Citylogistik on Vimeo.

There are a lot of packages to be delivered to the citizens in cities. In the Netherlands, for example, over half of all shoes are bought online. That is a lot of shoeboxes needing to get out to the people. In Europe we speak of the Zalando effect - similar to Amazon in North America.

Last mile service by smaller vehicles is great for cities but what about the solutions that are right there under our nose? What about the most ancient of transport corridors in our cities - the rivers and harbours.

We at Copenhagenize Design Company propose having barges - electric if you like - plying the waters of Copenhagen harbour. Dropping off small goods at specially designed piers at strategic locations on the harbourfront. Secure facilities that keep the goods stored in lockers. Depots designed especially for cargo bikes to arrive and pick up goods - or drop them off - in order to deliver them to the people and businesses in the various areas and neigbourhoods.

Our urban designer Adina Visan took our idea to the visual stage. Envisioning iconic off-shore depots for urban logistics along Copenhagen Harbour - or any city with a harbour or river.


This should be the new normal for goods delivery in Copenhagen.


Depots arranged to serve the densely populated neighbourhoods on either side of the harbour.


Designed for a fleet of cargo bikes that can roll in, pick up goods in lockers, and roll out again onto the cycle tracks of the city.

What are we waiting for?Copenhagenize the planet. And have a lovely day.
Categories: Views

KJÆRGAARD ADVICE

Cycling Embassy of Denmark - 1 July, 2015 - 08:39

We just got a new member: the consulting company KJÆRGAARD ADVICE. Contact: Erik Kjærgaard at kj@rgaard.dk

The post KJÆRGAARD ADVICE appeared first on Cycling Embassy of Denmark.

Categories: News

Grondmarkering helpt een beetje

Fietsberaad - 1 July, 2015 - 01:00

Amsterdam testte een grondmarkering en een markeringszuil bij de te weinig gebruikte fietsenstalling onder de openbare bibliotheek. Het helpt wellicht een beetje.

Categories: News

Making politicians invest in bicycle infrastructure

Cycling Embassy of Denmark - 30 June, 2015 - 11:00

How have Danish city planners managed to convince politicians to spend money on bicycle infrastructure? The answer partly lies in the way the Danes do economic analyses. After all, calculations and numbers are the politicians’ best friend. By Christian Tang Jensen, The Danish Cyclists’ Federation Advanced analyses including more parameters The high bicycle mode share […]

The post Making politicians invest in bicycle infrastructure appeared first on Cycling Embassy of Denmark.

Categories: News

Proef met reflecterende stroken op fietsroute Hoogezand-Groningen

Fietsberaad - 30 June, 2015 - 01:00

De provincie Groningen gaat een proef uitvoeren met reflecterende stroken op de fietsroute tussen Hoogezand en Groningen.

Categories: News

Wooden cycle bridge in Harderwijk

BicycleDutch - 29 June, 2015 - 23:01
An exceptional new wooden cycle bridge can be found in the town of Harderwijk on the former Zuiderzee (now IJsselmeer). It was opened on 11 December 2014 by several aldermen … Continue reading →
Categories: Views

Speciale fietsrouteplanner voor de Tour

Fietsberaad - 29 June, 2015 - 15:36

Wil je weten hoe je rondom de start van de Tour de France in Utrecht het snelst naar het parcours komt? Of wil je de Tour juist ontwijken? Een speciale Tourrouteplanner van de Fietsersbond, Le Tour Utrecht en Conclusion toont de beste route.

Categories: News

Study Tour round-up (June 2015 with Cambridge Cycling Campaign)

A View from the Cycle Path - 29 June, 2015 - 13:56
Study Tour participants from Cambridge riding on a canal-side cycle-path in Assen. Our study tours in Assen and Groningen have been quite popular this year. The feedback section of the study tour website shows where most of the people have visited from and there are plans for more visitors. The photos below show some of what we currently demonstrate on study tours: This photo may not appearDavid Hembrowhttp://www.blogger.com/profile/14543024940730663645noreply@blogger.com0http://www.aviewfromthecyclepath.com/2015/06/study-tour-round-up-june-2015-with.html
Categories: Views

Virtueel fietsen via 3D

Fietsberaad - 29 June, 2015 - 01:00

De Willem II Passage vormt straks een belangrijke route voor fietsers en voetgangers tussen de binnenstad van Tilburg en de wijken ten noorden van het spoor. In de passage kan straks veel met licht. Het licht kan bijvoorbeeld reageren op de gebruikers. Maar wat ervaren gebruikers als prettig of juist onprettig? Om antwoord te krijgen op deze vragen heeft de gemeente een 3D testmodel laten maken.

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