Arizona Road Cyclist News
March 28, 2012
News for those who bicycle Arizona's streets and roads
Editor, Jack Quinn

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In this issue:
     PV Police to Train Officers in Cycling Law
     Another Cyclist Killed in Traffic
     Hit-and-Run Driver Guilty in Cyclist Death
     Driver Charged in Shawn McCarthy's Death
     Why do Police Harass Cyclists?
     Hidden Hills Closure is Temporary
     San Tan Criterium -- March 31
     Not so Underground Criterium -- April 1
     Tolero Criterium #1 -- April 7
     Colossal Cave Road Race -- April 14
     Great Arizona Bicycle Festival -- April 14
     State Championship Road Race -- April 21
     Answer to the Challenge -- April 27, 28, & 29
     State Criterium Championship -- April 28 & 29
     ABC's Desert Classic -- April 28 (maybe)
     Alta Alpina Challenge -- June 30
     Feedback -- Our Readers Respond
     About Arizona Road Cyclist News

PV Police to Train Officers in Cycling Law

You may remember that two weeks ago I was ticketed by an irate Paradise Valley Police officer, Corporal Nigel Williams, for allegedly riding a bicycle without carrying my driver's license. Last Friday there were two important developments in the case. The first was that I received in the mail a copy of a motion by Town Attorney Andrew Miller to dismiss the citation "with prejudice," which means that if the court accepts the motion, the charges cannot be refilled. The reason for the request for dismissal reads: "Citation was issued in error. Issuing officer believed defendant needed a driver's license to ride a bicycle, and a driver's license is not required for a bicyclist."

The second thing that happened last Friday was that I received a cordial telephone call from Paradise Valley Police Commander Alan Laitsch who apologized for the citation and agreed that this unfortunate incident was an example of his officers' being inadequately trained in the traffic laws that pertain to cyclists. He promised to train his officers concerning what is and what is not legal cycling behavior.

I must admit that I am not completely convinced that the training will be adequate unless outside help is called in. Some of the statutes are more complex than they appear at first glance. For example, let's assume that a driver is following a group of 20 cyclists and telephones the police to complain that the cyclists are taking up the entire lane and she is unable to pass. For the sake of argument, let's further assume that the cyclists are riding two abreast and far apart, even though they could easily tighten up the group and allow the motorist to pass. The cyclists are certainly being inconsiderate, and perhaps they even deserve to be called jerks, but are they breaking the law?

ARS 28-815 reads in part: "A person riding a bicycle on a roadway at less that the normal speed of traffic at the time and place ... shall ride as close as practicable to the right-hand curb or edge of the roadway...." Considering just this portion of the statute, what constitutes the traffic at the time and place, the single motorist or the 20 cyclists? I think most people assume that the automobile has the right-of-way no matter how many cyclists are present, but is that correct? Perhaps the 20 cyclists are the traffic and not the single car. I am not aware of any court decision that would answer this question.

The point I am trying to make is that the simple assumptions that many people make about the rights of motorists versus the rights of cyclists may not be correct, and I question whether a person who has not thought long and hard about the complexities of a statute such as 28-815 has the knowledge and understanding of the statute to teach others about it.

Another Cyclist Killed in Traffic

Sixty-year-old José Asención Mendoza was killed in the night of March 14 as he was crossing 35th Avenue near Georgia Avenue on his bike while pulling a homemade trailer. He was fatally struck by a 2003 Mitsubishi Eclipse whose driver was identified only as a 28-year-old woman. According to police, the street was dimly lit and Mr. Mendoza failed to yield to traffic while crossing the street. The driver was not found to be impaired.

Hit-and-Run Driver Guilty in Cyclist Death

Gary Lynn Foshee, age 55, has been found guilty in Maricopa County Superior Court of manslaughter and endangerment as the result of a hit-and-run accident in August 2009 in which cyclist Russell Jenkins was struck and killed. Mr. Jenkins was reportedly cycling legally eastbound on Ocotillo near 228th Street when he was struck head-on at approximately 2 a.m. by Mr. Foshee's automobile, which was being driven on the wrong side of the road. Sentencing was scheduled to take place on March 23. However, the defendant's attorney has moved to grant Mr. Foshee a new trial, and sentencing has been postponed until that issue can be dealt with. Oral arguments are scheduled to be heard on March 28, and if no new trial is granted, sentencing is to take place on April 6.

Mr. Foshee has a long history of citations and arrests in various jurisdictions in Arizona.

Driver Charged in Shawn McCarty's Death

As reported in the March 14 issue of Arizona Road Cyclist News, 53-year-old Shawn McCarty was riding his bike on Thompson Peak Parkway when he as struck from behind and killed by a black Chevrolet Tahoe SUV that swerved into the bike lane. The driver of the SUV has since been identified  as Amy Alexander of Scottsdale. Ms. Alexander has been cited for unsafe passing of a bicycle and driving in a bicycle lane. Both are minor civil offenses, although the former charge can carry a $1,000 when it results in the death of the cyclist.

The Scottsdale Police Department is reported to still be investigation this case. As I mentioned in the original article on this subject, I think it would be a good idea to subpoena Ms. Alexander's cell-phone records to see if she might have been talking on the phone or texting at the time the accident occurred. I also believe that it would be a good idea if Arizona had a statute that would enable the police to charge anyone who causes a fatal accident while using a cell phone with manslaughter. Let me hasten to add, however, that I have no evidence to suggest that cell-phone usage was the distraction that caused Ms. Alexander to swerve into the bike lane.

Why do Police Harass Cyclists?

It has happened to many of us. You are riding alone in light traffic in the right lane of a four-lane street when suddenly a police officer rolls down the squad car window and yells at you or perhaps even pulls you over and explains that you are too far out in the lane or even insists that you are supposed to be riding on the sidewalk. You attempt to explain to the officer that if a lane is too narrow to share with traffic, you have every right to claim the lane, and besides, with traffic being so light, you are not impeding anyone, but the officer refuses to listen and gives you a long lecture. In extreme cases, as happened to me a few weeks ago, the officer even writes you a ticket for some imagined offense and you are required to appear in traffic court in an attempt to get the bogus citation dismissed. (Most of the time, the magistrate sides with the police officer in court, no matter how ridiculous the citation.)

Or, you are riding in a group, taking up a traffic lane on a Saturday ride when traffic is light, and the entire group is pulled over for impeding traffic. The officer insists that you are supposed to ride single file as close to the curb as possible. Again, the officer is wrong, but police officers seem to be trained to take control of any situation that they find themselves in and are almost never willing to entertain the possibility that a cyclist could understand cycling law better than they do.

The situation seems at its worst in places like North Scottsdale and Paradise Valley, although the Pima County Sheriff's Department has also written cyclists its share of bogus traffic tickets. In North Scottsdale and Paradise Valley,  real crimes are rare and officers have plenty of time to dedicate to what they view as petty offenses. It isn't that police officers in Central Phoenix or Glendale are better trained. An officer patrolling West Van Buren Street is too busy dealing with real criminals to be concerned about someone riding a bicycle, even if that cyclist does something illegal such as riding against traffic or running a stop sign.

Why do some police officers harass cyclists in Arizona? I believe that this situation is due to a combination of the factors: Most Arizona law-enforcement officers have received only superficial training in traffic law, and they exhibit a hubristic disinclination to admit that they might be wrong 

Most Arizona police officers, no matter which jurisdiction they work for, receive their basic training at the Arizona Law Enforcement Academy (ALEA), whose curriculum includes barely a mention of the traffic laws applicable to cyclists. Buried way down in the Basic Training Curriculum, which you can view in PDF format by clicking here, on page 61 of the 103 page document, almost hidden in the subparagraphs, one finds 4.6.12, "Identify the elements of bicycle operation per A.R.S. §§ 28-811 through 28-817." These are the statutes that govern cyclists' rights and duties when riding on the road. Given all of the other topics covered in the curriculum, it seems impossible that more than a few minutes could be dedicated to this topic, and I have been told by a police officer that that is in fact the case.

It would be ideal, from our viewpoint, if the Police Academy would dedicate more time and more discussion to the statutes pertaining to cyclists, but I understand that the Academy has to cover a lot of ground in the amount of time allotted to train each prospective police officer. If more time cannot be dedicated in the Academy to training officers about cyclists' lawful place in the traffic mix, then it seems to me that it is up to the individual police departments to pick up the slack by providing that training to their officers. The League of American Bicyclists can be of help in arranging such training, and I imagine that some local organizations such as the Coalition of Arizona Bicyclists would also be glad to help.

The Paradise Valley Police Department has taken an important step by acknowledging that its officers are in need of training where cycling law is concerned. Now its time for other Arizona police departments to follow suit.

Hidden Hills Closure is Temporary

In the February 29 edition of Arizona Road Cyclist News, I reported that a sign had been erected at the entrance to Hidden Hills that reads: "Non-Resident Bicycle Use Prohibited Beyond This Point". The gated community of Hidden Hills in Northeast Scottsdale had previously been open to cyclists by virtue of an easement held by the City. The easement was envisioned as part of a cyclist transportation corridor between Scottsdale and Fountain Hills that would serve as an alternative to heavily-trafficked Shea Boulevard. However, a final short link in the corridor through an undeveloped section of Fountain Hills has yet to be paved.

In response to a long-fought effort by the Hidden Hills Homeowners' Association to get the easement relinquished and an equally hard-fought effort by some cyclists to keep the easement open, the City's Transportation Committee came up with a compromise solution. The Committee agreed to temporarily suspend the easement until the connection to Fountain Hills is built. In exchange, the Committee stipulated and the Hidden Hills Homeowners' Association must agree in writing that it will actively support an anticipated future Committee decision to reopen the easement. The Homeowners' Association was also required  to post a sign at the community's entrance advising prospective home buyers that cyclists will at some future date have the right to ride their bikes on the community's principal street.

That sign has now been erected as shown in the figure and reads: "The public bicycle easement on 145th Way in Hidden Hills II has been temporarily closed pending completion of a connection to Fountain Hills.

When will that connection to completed? I don't know. The company that is to develop the land in Fountain Hills has decided to reroute one of the planned streets, and some utility infrastructure is must also be relocated. In theory, the connection could be completed before the end of this year, but in a period of depressed property values and home sales, it could take much longer before we are riding our bikes through Hidden Hills to Fountain Hills.

San Tan Criterium  —  March 31

The annual San Tan Criterium will take place this year on March 31 in Mesa just south of Falcon Field south of East McKellips Street and west of North Highley Road. There will be races for men from juniors through age 60+ and for women from juniors through age 50+. Registration is $30 online until today, March 28. Onsite registration will be available the day of the race with a $5.00 late-registration adder.

To view the race’s Webpage, click here.

Not so Underground Criterium  —  April 1

This race is an outgrowth of Timothy Fleming's Underground Criterium, a pickup circuit race that takes place Tuesday evenings in an business park southeast of the intersection of Deer Valley Road and Seventh Street in North Phoenix.

The Not so Underground Criterium is held on the same course, which incidentally will also be the course for the 2012 criterium championships on April 27 and 28 (see below). The course is a 8/10-mile loop which is advertised as "super wide, super smooth" with a hill on every lap. The entry fee is $10 for juniors, $25 for most adult categories, and $30 for the men's category 1-2-3 race (there is also a men's category 2-3-4 race). Online registration is available until 7 p.m. on March 30. Early registrants will receive a race number to wear that includes the rider's name and category. Day-of-race registration is available on site for an extra $5. 25% of the profits will be donated to charity.

To view the race brochure in PDF format, click here.

Tolero Criterium #1 —  April 7

The Tolero Criterium series will take place at the Casas Church Campus 10801 North La Cholla Boulevard in Oro Valley on April 7, September 1, and September 8. The first race starts at 7:30 a.m. Registration is online and closes on Thursday, April 5.

The number of categories racing is very limited. There is one juniors' race and only one race for women. If you are a man, the selection is much better with races for category 5, categories 3 and 4, categories 1 and 2, masters 35+, masters 50+, and masters 60+. The latter two age groups will race together but be scored separately. The entry fees are quite reasonable, $5 for juniors and $20 for everyone else.

To view the race's brochure in PDF format, click here or to register on the BikeReg site, click here.

Colossal Cave Road Race — April 14

Like the Valley of the Sun Stage Race, the Colossal Cave Road Race is now part of the Lance Armstrong Junior Race Series (LAJRS). This race series and its associated training camps are designed to help junior riders develop into the next generation of top bicycle racers.

I'm glad to see that the promoters have included races for just about everyone from 10-year-old boys and girls through masters 70+ for men and masters 65+ for women. There is also a tandem race.

This is one of the few races that pays cash as prizes for all adult classes except men's category 5, which is a training category designed to give beginning male riders the experience of racing in a pack and is not eligible for cash prizes under USA Cycling rules.

This is a circuit race on an 8.9-mile course with a significant climb on each lap. Riders start in two waves to limit the number of races on the course at one time. Most riders start at 6:30 a.m. with a second, smaller wave to start at 10:00 a.m.

The entry fee is $40 online for all senior and masters categories and $10 for juniors through April 11. Walk-up registration in Tucson is $45 on April 12 and 13. There is no mail-in registration.

To view the race flyer in PDF format, click here or to register online, click here.

Great Arizona Bicycle Festival — April 14

The Great Arizona Bicycle Festival takes place in Mesa, Arizona on Saturday, April 14 and includes a plethora of bicycle-related events including the 70-mile El Tour de Mesa, which starts and finishes at Center and First Streets. For those who are not up to a 70-mile ride, there is a shorter, 28-mile version an a four-mile fun ride that might be suitable for riding with the younger children.

Other events include a Ciclovia, in which the main streets in downtown Mesa will be closed to those pesky motorized vehicles and open to bikes. A cyclist’s swap meet featuring vintage bike parts and accessories will be held from 6 a.m. (cyclists tend to be early risers) to 3 p.m. The Kids’ Fun Zone will include bounce houses, face painting, games, and free make-and-take crafts. Kids will also have the opportunity to participate in a Bicycle Safety Rodeo in which they will practice bike handling and bike safety while riding through an obstacle course. MACFest is billed as an arts-themed festival with artists’ creations, music, and other fun events.

Some of Arizona’s top bike shops will be on hand to sell cycle-related merchandise, do giveaways, and repair bikes. What event would be complete without a touchy-feely Holistic Healing and Natural Fitness Festival? Finally, there will be a self-guided bike tour through the neighborhood north of Main Street with ten stops.

To view the event’s Website, click here.

State Championship Road Race  — April 21

The Arizona State Championship road races will be held on an out-and-back hilly course starting in the appropriately-named town of Hillside, Arizona and heading out toward Bagdad. There are several variations of the course from 25 miles for the youngest juniors through 44 miles for the older juniors and for old people like me to 64 miles for the youngsters, meaning men 59 years old and younger and women 34 years old and younger. The distances don't seem very long, but this is a strenuous course with beaucoup climbing.

Because there is not a lot of lodging in Hillside, race headquarters will be at the Best Western Motel in Wickenburg, where racers can register or pick up their race packets the night before the race. The entry fee is $15 for juniors and $35 for others through April 16. Riders can register online or print a standard USA Cycling release form and mail it in with a check. After April 16 a $10 late fee applies.

Those who are not licensed by USA Cycling will be able to buy a $10 day license onsite or a $60 annual license ($30 for juniors). Only annual license holders are eligible for championship medals.

To view the race brochure in PDF format click here or to register online, click here,

Answer to the Challenge  — April 27, 28 & 29

The Answer to the Challenge is a strenuous three-day ride that you want to prepare for in advance. Not only must you be in shape to spend long days in the saddle while pedaling 325 miles with 22,000 feet of climbing, you must make your motel reservations well in advance, or you will risk spending the nights sleeping alongside the road. This first night's stop is in the hamlet of Strawberry, which has very limited accommodations. You are responsible for arranging and paying for your own place to sleep and food.

The original Arizona Challenge was started decades ago by some cycling buddies of mine and covered the full 325 miles in one long, 24-hour day. The Answer to the Challenge was conceived later to give those who couldn't or wouldn't do a triple century in one day a chance to do the ride. The Arizona Challenge is now defunct, but the Answer to the Challenge lives on.

Dick Landis of Landis Cyclery puts this ride on with some help from the Phoenix Metro Bicycle Club. PMBC, GABA, ABC, and USA Cycling members pay a $60 registration fee until April 21. Non-members pay $5 more. After April 21 there is a $10 late-registration adder. In return, Landis Cyclery transports your bags, provides SAG stops with food and water, help with bike problems, and picks up cyclists who realize too late that they are not up to this ride.

The first day's ride is from Scottsdale to Strawberry (population 35) on the Mogollon Rim. On the second day, riders will descend from the Mogollon Rim into Verde Valley and then pedal up over Mingus Mountain to Prescott. The third day has no outrageous climbs, but it's a long, 127-mile day. Riders will climb out of Prescott and then the road is mainly downhill to Peeple's Valley, from where there is a deceptively long and usually windy climb to the town of Yarnell. From Yarnell, there is a thrilling descent through the switchbacks of Yarnell Hill through Congress and Wickenburg followed by a long, hot slog across the desert back to Scottsdale.

Although I have never done this ride, I have ridden all sections individually at various times except for the final leg from Wickenburg to Scottsdale. The route is unusually scenic, and I highly recommend the Answer to the Challenge to those who are in excellent physical condition.

To connect to the ride's Webpage, click here.

State Criterium Championship  — April 28 & 29

The Arizona State Criterium Championships will take place over two days, April 28 and April 29. Participants in the championship races will be awarded medals. However, there will also be two non-championship races held on each of these days, and these races will pay cash prizes.

The races will be held on the Underground Criterium course, just southeast of the corner of Deer Valley Road and Seventh Street. This is an interesting course with a climb on each lap, and although I haven't ridden the course myself, I'm told that the corners are wide enough to be taken at high speed and that the surface is in excellent condition.

Online registration closes on April 26 at 7 p.m. The entry fee  for adult riders in the championship races is $30 through until April 3 with a $5 late-registration thereafter. Day-of-race registration is available for $45. Juniors pay $10 online or $15 for walk-up registration at the race. The entry fee for the non-championship races is $25 online or $35 at the race. Riders who also compete in a championship race the same day pay $15.

To view the race brochure in PDF format, click here.

ABC's Desert Classic — April 28 (maybe)

The Arizona Bicycle Club's announced rides have a habit of not happening in recent years, reportedly due to the postponement of planning until it is too late. Assuming it comes off for a change, this year's Desert Classic Century will be held on April 28 from 7:00 a.m. until 2:30 p.m. Judging from the state of the ride's Web page (it doesn't exist) and the lack of spreading the word, I would say that the chances of the ride's being cancelled again this year are excellent. I am a longtime member of ABC, and it pains me to write this, but the club has been a disorganized mess for several years. (I know, it's people like me who complain but don't volunteer to help run the club who are responsible.)

The ride is scheduled to start at Oggi's Pizza and Brewing Company at 6681 West Beardsley Road. Online registration was $25 for members of ABC, PMBC, and GABA (what about the Bull Shifters, who give ABC members a discount on their rides?) and $40 for others. However, after March 17, a $5 adder was tacked onto those fees. Registration is in advance only.

In addition to the century ride, there are usually shorter ride options for this event. However, characteristically for ABC events in recent years, when I click on the "Additional Information" tab, a blank Web page pops up. The "Ride sign-in sheets and waver" link, on the other hand, takes one to the League of American Bicyclists' Website. However, the tab to register and pay your money does work. If you pay, I hope that you get to do the ride in exchange for your money, but I wouldn't count on it.

Perhaps the Website will be fixed by the time you read this and perhaps the ride will take place. I hope so. If you'd like to check, connect to ABC's main Web page by clicking here.

Alta Alpina Challenge — June 30

This ride doesn’t take place until the height of the summer, but because it takes place in the cool mountains of Northern California and Nevada, it is probably something you want to plan for in advance, so here’s the info.

The Alta Alpina Challenge starts at Turtle Rock Park in Alpine Country in California near Lake Tahoe and the Nevada border. This ride is just the thing for those looking for a high-altitude, tough ride away from the Arizona desert at the peak of the Arizona hot season. How long is the ride? Well, take your pick. For those looking for some family fun with the kids there are two family fun rides. Choose either the 15- or 20-mile option.

Feel like getting a workout? There are rides for you. For the real wussies, there is the Wild Sierra Metric, a 64-mile ride with a mere 5,000 feet of climbing. Piece a` cake!

For those who like to stretch their legs, there is the 5-Pass Challenge. This is a bit more reasonable with 16,000 feet of climbing in 134 miles. That’s enough to get your heart beating and make it feel as if you’ve had a modest workout. However, I know that many of my readers will consider this to be a sissy ride, soooo……

How about the 8-pass challenge? Now we’re talking about a real bicycle ride. The route is 198 miles long and features 20,300 feet of climbing. Need to make it a full double century? You can always cruise around the parking lot a few times at the end of the ride to make the full 200 miles.

Until May 1, the cost of the rides is $25 for the Family Fun Ride, $50 for the Wild Sierra full or metric century, $90 for the 5-Pass Challenge, and $100 for the 8-Pass Challenge. In addition to excellent support on the ride, you’ll receive a T-shirt. Riders can also purchase a ride jersey, and those who finish the 8-pass challenger get the bragging rights of the 8-Pass Finisher’s jersey.

By the way, as you can see from the map below, the 8-pass challenge consists of a number of out and back legs, so there are plenty of opportunities to cheat, bypass one or more of those legs, and to cut the ride short.

Feedback -- Our Readers Respond

[In the previous issue, with regard to a cyclist who was killed on Thompson Peak Parkway in Scottsdale by an SUV that swerved into the bicycle lane, I wrote: "I don't know if cell phone usage played a role in this tragic accident, but I would be in favor of a law that required the police to subpoena the cell phone records of any driver who causes an accident that results in injury or death. If the person is found to have been talking or texting on the cell phone at the time of the accident, I believe that fact should trigger a lengthy jail sentence." - JQ]

 

My opinion for a solution – Federal Government should step in and pass a law – All hand held units (cell phones, smart phones, etc.) used in the United States or sold within the United States must have a GPS that will make the unit inoperable if detected at moving faster than 10 mph.

 

Mark Riordan

Lewisberry, PA

---------- 

I received two replies to my open letter to Paradise Valley Police Chief John Bennett pointing out that I was ticketed for supposedly riding a bicycle without carrying a driver's license, asking that Paradise Valley police officers stop harassing those cyclists who are riding legally, and asking that Corporal Nigel Williams be ticketed for violating the three-foot law in his unmarked patrol car.

Dear Mr. Quinn:

Thank you for e-mailing me your concerns about a recent incident involving yourself and one of our Officers. I have asked Cpl Williams' supervisor to look into the incident and report his findings to me.  Once that is completed, I will be in further contact with you.

Sincerely,

Chief John J. Bennett

Paradise Valley Police Department

 

----------------

Dear Mr. Quinn,

I can't comment on the merits of your missive or the incident. I was not there, and I'm not a lawyer.

I road bike on a regular basis. Paradise Valley is the perfect mixture of hills, flats and streets that are not busy. What I've seen a significant numbers of cyclists do, on the roads in Paradise Valley, blows my mind. People think they 'own the road' and forget the laws of physics and ignore the rule of law. The amount of people that are injured, some seriously, on our streets is terrible and very preventable.

I would encourage you as a leader of the cycling world with a large audience to please remind your readers of their responsibilities of biking on the road. The laws and common sense things such as riding in the bike lane, not multiple riders blocking the lane so traffic can't pass, yielding to traffic as a car would yield to another, etc. Anything you can to make our roads safer for cyclists would be greatly appreciated by me and the Town.

Regards,
Paul Dembow
Town Council
Town of Paradise Valley
6401 East Lincoln Drive
Paradise Valley, Arizona 85253
480-348-3690

II agree with some of what Town Councilman Paul Dembow wrote. I disagree, however, that one needs to be a lawyer to understand that one is not required to be in possession of a driver's license to ride a bicycle and that a motorist is required to give a cyclist a minimum of three feet of clearance while overtaking. Everyone who holds a driver's license should know these facts, not just lawyers. I think that Mr. Dembow, as a member of the town council, should be dismayed that at least one Paradise Valley police officer does not seem to know these facts, and I think that it is Mr. Dembow's responsibility to see that something is done about it.

Also, from the information that I am able to gather, the number of serious accidents involving cyclists in Paradise Valley is quite small. Mr. Dembow is not the first person to insist that we are a menace on the streets of Paradise Valley without producing any statistics to back up that claim.

As to riding in the bike lane, very few streets in Paradise Valley have bike lanes. McDonald Drive, where I received the bogus traffic ticket, could benefit from some bike lanes instead of the wide divider in the middle of the street that tempts motorists to attempt to pass cyclists where there is no room to legally do so. -- JQ

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