Tag Archive for the great helmet debate

Dangerous driver alert, cyclist critically injured in West LA, and your fresh summer solstice links

I received the following email last night, urging cyclists to be on the lookout for a dangerous driver who continues to drive despite a restricted — and possibly suspended — license.

And despite seriously injuring a cyclist in a collision late last month.

URGENT -Dangerous Driver Alert If you ride the Rockstore Loop you should be very concerned. (Agoura Road, Cornell Road, Mulholland Between Cornell & Lake Vista Dr.)

The Vehicle: 2012 Red Hyundai Elantra License 6TLN???* Damage to right front & right side. Missing right side mirror.

On 5/30/2012 @ 6:30 AM Local Cyclist Richard Harris sustained serious injuries and was Life Flighted to UCLA when he was run down from behind by a 45 MPH car while riding in the bike lane on Cornell Road � mile N of Mulholland. The 88 year old Driver of the car lives in Malibu Lake and is continuing to drive even though she has a restricted and possibly suspended license. She regularly drives back and forth between Malibu Lake & Agoura. This driver has been involved in multiple serious accidents in the last six months. The DMV has already been notified by the CHP that she needs a priority reexamination of her license. However she continues to drive in violation if the restrictions placed on her. If you see her driving call 911 so the CHP can impound her car.

*I’ve removed the last three digits of the license number to protect the online privacy of the driver; if you see a car matching that description with the first four digits of the license, contact the police and let them determine if it’s the right car.

And whatever you do, don’t try to deal with the situation yourself.

Thanks to Michael Byerts, Henry Hsieh and Steve Herbert for the heads-up.


A UC Berkeley and Santa Monica College student is critically injured in a collision with an SUV while riding her bike home last week. Tragically, her mother and sister discovered her lying in the street no more than a minute after the collision; she’s reportedly doing well, despite suffering life-threatening injuries.


Once again, the great helmet debate rears its ugly head. This time in our neighbor to the north.

No, further north.

The Ontario, Canada chief coroner gets it right by saying all of the 129 cycling deaths in the province since 2006 could have been prevented. And responds by calling for a 14-point plan to prevent bicycling deathsincluding a mandatory helmet law.

And that’s where the argument starts.

A writer for the National Post says prove helmets are effective before making them mandatory, while Quebec pediatricians call for a law mandating helmet use for children.

The Toronto Star says the coroner is right, while a Toronto writer likes most of the suggestions, except for that damn helmet law. Windsor cyclists say it’s a matter of choice; the local paper calls for better education — and maybe mandatory helmets. The Ottawa Citizen says it should be an adult’s choice, which is exactly my take on the subject, even though I never ride without one.

Meanwhile, cyclists call for easing British Columbia’s helmet law, while a letter writer says they must be brain dead. The Daily News says repealing the law would send the wrong message, noting the outcry that would occur if the requirement to wear a seat belt was withdrawn.

Then again, unlike bike helmets, seat belts are designed to offer protection in crashes above 12.5 mph.

And an Anchorage AK writer suggests bike lanes would do more to make riders safe than requiring — or even wearing — helmets.


The San Francisco cyclist charged with killing a pedestrian while allegedly trying to beat his time on Strava enters a not guilty plea. Meanwhile, the family of a fallen cyclist files suit against Strava for encouraging dangerous riding. And Strava changes their terms and conditions to absolve themselves of any responsibility for anything anyone does using their service; good luck with that.

And Dave Moulton wisely advises riders not to play pretend racer on city streets — and somehow does it without using the words jerk, idiot or anything derived from four-letter words; I’m not sure I could show that kind of restraint.


Bike share takes to the streets in Salt Lake City and New York, where the Post calls it a money-wasting crazed campaign backed by cycling-advocate groups and their stooges.


The bikelash rises in an attempt to stop a planned road diet on Honolulu Ave in Glendale, so City Council members delay a decision until July 10th. A writer for Patch explains the arguments for and against.


As noted here last week, Heal the Bay and Mountains Restoration Trust are calling for mountain bikers to help clean up sections of Malibu Creek State Park to remote to reach on foot this Saturday. The LA Sheriff Cycling Team hosts 350 riders for the second annual Ride 2 Recovery Honor Ride; thanks to George Wolfberg for the heads-up. The long awaited Main Street bike lanes are on their way, while the Source questions whether it’s legal to park in them; short answer, not in Los Angeles, where parking in bike lanes in banned by local ordinance — even if the police don’t seem to know that. Over 200 riders took part in this year’s L.A. World Naked Bike Ride. L.A. riders recreate the famous flying bike scene from E.T. — without the flying, of course. Letter writers to the Times call for protecting pedestrians from cyclists, although one notes that you can’t blame all riders for the actions of a few. Richard Risemberg discovers the Graffiti Bridge. Four Santa Monica schools will take part in the Safe Routes to Schools program.

A harrowing report on a left-cross collision from Orange County’s cdmCyclist; oddly, the badly injured rider found a link to his own collision right here. San Clemente is seeking funding to develop smart bicycling signs riders can scan with a cell phone to get local information. A San Diego writer says biking in that city means literally risking his life, while another is stunned to discover cyclists have a right to use the whole lane. Two San Mateo men are charged with deliberately running two boys off the road, as well as threatening them with a knife. Three years in San Quentin and a lifetime driving ban for a Saratoga hit-and-run driver with one prior DUI. Sadly, the retiring Sonoma State University professor severely injured by a hit-and-run driver — who said he didn’t stop because he had to get to work — has died of his injuries. A not guilty plea from an accused Bay Area hit-and-run driver with three prior DUIs; why is someone with a record like that even allowed on the road? BART police arrest a Major bike thief.

AASHTO, the national association of state departments of transportation, updates its guidelines but leaves out cycle tracks. A Portland cyclist credits the movie 127 Hours with inspiring him to climb back up a ravine with a broken neck, eight broken ribs and both lungs punctured after he rode off the road at 41 mph. Grim stars join in on Portland’s partly naked bike ride. Issaquah firefighters buy a new bike for a 4th grade boy after his is broken by a careless driver. In a bizarre twist, a Washington town may not be able to afford its mandatory helmet law; thanks again to George Wolfberg for the link. Colorado’s Attorney General seizes $300,000 worth of bogus bike parts and jerseys; this is why you have to be careful about buying from unknown sources. Cyclists are divided on installing a protected bikeway in Lincoln NE. Springfield Cyclist looks back on a successful Ride the Rockies. It’s time to take back the bike lane in Chicago. Dottie of Let’s Go Ride a Bike declares jerk driver season officially open; it takes a real jerk to steal a bike from a Michigan boy with cerebral palsy. The police chief of Grand Rapids MI crashes into two boys on a bike. A New York paper points out pedestrians have little to fear from us pedalists, but everyone has to worry about cars. Why do police always assume a cyclist simply fell over when they find a badly injured rider on the road; sideswiping a rider could also result in serious injuries without damaging the bike.

Canada’s transport minister rejects a requirement for trucks to have side guards to protect cyclists and pedestrians; evidently, saving lives isn’t worth offending the trucking lobby. An Alberta cyclist asks local residents to control their dogs. The Economist says more UK residents are riding bikes, but it’s still a niche activity. London’s Boris Bikes bike share program is swindled out of £42,000. It takes a real schmuck to steal a man’s bike after he suffers a heart attack while riding. A 13-year old UK bike rider is killed by a driver racing his girlfriend at 80 mph, after his car flips and hits two girls riding on a bike path. With more people riding bikes, the Irish Times questions just how safe their streets really are. Even in Israel, deeply observant riders can’t compete in the national championships because their held on the Sabbath.

Finally, your next bicycle could fly; no, really. And a Massachusetts cyclist has his bike and jewelry stolen by a sausage-wielding attacker.

Your chance to write for Biking in LA; more on the great helmet debate

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If you’ve ever had something you’ve wanted to say about bicycling in Los Angeles — or anywhere else, for that matter — this is your chance.

My wife and I will be moving in about a week. Actually, we’re only going a couple of blocks, trading our million dollar view for the opportunity to finally have that dog she’s always wanted. Which means I’ll be spending most of the next few weeks packing and unpacking, rather than writing about biking. Or anything else, for that matter.

So this is where you come in.

...for something like this.

If you’d like to write something for this blog, feel free. Just keep it on topic — that is, about bicycling in general, or more specifically as it applies to the greater Los Angeles area.

Maybe you have a complaint you want to get off your chest, or suggestions for how riding can be made safer. You could write about your own experiences, or tell a story you heard from a friend. Or share with L.A. riders what it’s like in your far flung corner of the world.

Maybe you have your own blog, and want to reach a wider — or just different — audience. I’ll even open it up to those PR people who email me from time to time to pitch their products or events if they have something interesting to share.

Just email me at bikinginla at hotmail dot com, and share your thoughts with the world. Or at least, that two-wheeled segment of it that stops by here every day.

And in the meantime, I’ll do my best to keep up with the latest happenings, and keep you informed until things get back to normal.

Whatever that is.


The great helmet debate just doesn’t seem to be going away.

Ross Del Duca, whose Just Another Cyclist blog is another stop on my daily reading list, thinks it’s time we had some real, verifiable data as part of the discussion. But while he’s ambivalent on using one, he comes down decidedly against making helmet use mandatory.

Statistics show that up to 98% of cyclists killed in traffic collisions weren’t wearing helmets. And it’s true that a plurality of cycling deaths result from head injuries, though estimates range from 40% to over 62%.

But the question remains whether those head injuries would have been survivable even if they had been wearing helmets.

What too many people fail to consider is that bike helmets are only designed to provide full protection up to 12.5 mph, and partial protection up to 20 mph. In impacts well above that — which aren’t unusual in car collisions — the rider may as well be wearing a tissue on his or her head.

Or using a magic talisman to ward off injury, as Bob Mionske noted.

And even the most effective helmet won’t do a damn thing to protect against injuries to any other part of your body.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m a firm believer in wearing a helmet every time I ride. But only once in 30 years of riding, and four riding accidents serious enough to require medical care, was one necessary. In that case, it probably saved my life.

But that’s just once in somewhere north of 5,000 rides and 200,000 miles, give or take.

The simple fact is, a helmet is far from the magic safety device some people seem to think. Even if a mandatory helmet law resulted in 100% compliance — which is far from likely — it’s a hell of a lot better to avoid collisions than trust in a helmet to save your life.

We’d save more lives by teaching riders safe cycling skills, enforcing existing traffic laws and demanding that motorists drive safely and pay attention to the road, than we could possibly save by requiring everyone to wear a helmet.


Unbelievably, a judge upholds the blatantly illegal Blackhawk CO bike ban. Or perhaps, all too believable, considering it was a local municipal judge; real justice will only be found on the state level, assuming the case is appealed.


LACBC calls on cyclists to support the Wilshire Bus Rapid Transit lane at the December 9th Metro Board meeting. As they note, bikes would be allowed to share the lane with buses, and the road would be repaved — finally fixing the deadly pothole-riddled section local riders call The Gauntlet and making Wilshire a viable biking route during rush hour.


The next CicLAvia will take place on Sunday, April 10th. Writing for KPCC, Todd Munson offers a biking gift guide that doesn’t suck. Redondo cyclists will soon get wider bike lanes to put cyclists outside the door zone. Courtesy of my friends at Altadenablog comes word the annual Tour of Altadena bike ride will take place on Saturday the 4th, beginning at 9 am.

A change in the newly elected city council puts a planned Santa Rosa bike bridge in peril. Fresno commits to becoming bike-friendlier; evidently, they’re doing a damn good job of it. A Sacramento driver is arrested for hit-and-run after slightly injuring a cyclist, and found with narcotics hidden in her clothing — and her infant son in the car; link courtesy of Witch on a Bicycle. After a cyclist is killed, a Los Altos resident suggests a new state law banning parking or stopping in a bike lane within 250 feet of a school during rush hours; I have a better idea — how about just banning parking or stopping in a bike lane, period?

A Utah professor finally comes home two years after being paralyzed in a biking accident. City Fix examines the backlash against New York bike lanes. A commentator on Versus says it’s time to stop killing cyclists. Data shows cyclists ride faster on Wednesdays; can’t say I did that, though. Nova Scotia passes a 1 metre — 3.28 feet — passing law.

London’s bike share program faces its toughest test as it opens to tourists and casual users. Bike Revolution discusses the importance of registering your bike so you can prove it’s your if it is stolen; they offer a free, global registration service. The UK’s Merseyside region meets their goal of a 10% increase in cycling a year ahead of schedule. Ten months for killing a postie on his way to work. Yet another former world champion receives a two year ban for doping, this time after Igor Astarloa had already retired. Aussie authorities look for the idiot who strung electrical wire at waist level across a popular bikeway.

Finally, advice to cyclists — don’t get drunk before riding your bike to the police station. Seriously. And in a textbook example of a complete and total jerk, before fleeing the scene, a West Memphis motorist stops just long enough to tell the seven-year old child he hit not to call the police because he — the driver — doesn’t have insurance.

Evidently, juries blame the bike-riding victims too

Maryland injury lawyer Ronald V. Miller, Jr. forwarded a couple of interesting links.

They show that while the average jury award in a bike case is $279,970, the median is only $50,000, thanks to a handful of high verdicts that skew the average. And they reveal that cyclists only prevail in 41% of cases — something that hasn’t significantly changed in the past 20 years.

In case you wonder why, you only have to look as far the comment section of virtually any online story about bicycling. There are people who just don’t like cyclists and don’t think we belong on the roads — and believe anything that happens to us as a result is our fault, regardless of what the law says.

And those are some of the same people you’ll find in jury pools.

To put it in perspective, motorcyclists injured by cars — hardly a popular group in our society — prevail in court roughly two-thirds of the time.

Which means we’re even less sympathetic to jurors than your neighborhood biker.

As Miller’s legal partner, Laura G. Zois, put it,

The motorcycle thing (that) drives our lawyers crazy is when we know our client is a motorcyclist who did the right thing and the defense lawyer is just using the bias against motorcyclists in a way that completely ignores the real facts. But I’m amazed this same bias also exists to bike riders.

Miller himself adds,

I think the relatively low success rate of bicycle accident cases at trial is a general bias against bikes that may be even stronger than the bias against motorcycles. Many jurors, who typically drive cars, simply think bicycles shouldn’t be on the road.

However, one place I disagree with him is that, like our mayor, he calls for a mandatory helmet law.

While I never ride without one — and credit mine for saving my life in the Infamous Beachfront Bee Encounter a few years back — I think making helmet use mandatory would be counterproductive.

As others have pointed out, despite the low rate of helmet use in many parts of Europe, the injury rate is also significantly lower, which many people ascribe to the greater number of cyclists on the road and greater emphasis on accident prevention. And there is evidence to suggest that the reduction in injury rates in areas with helmet laws is due to a decline in ridership after the law takes effect, rather than an actual reduction in the rate of injuries per mile travelled.

I think a program to encourage helmet use — such as a tax break for buying a helmet or a discount on insurance rates for using one — would do far more to increase the number of riders who wear one, as opposed to a more punitive approach that might only increase the percentage of helmet use, while reducing the actual number cyclists on the road.

On the other hand, one study I haven’t seen yet is the effect helmet use has on jury verdicts.

I have a feeling most jurors would look far more favorably on an injured rider with a skid lid than one without one.

And be far more likely to blame the helmetless rider for his own injuries.


I love this comment from Meghan Kavanagh on her Facebook page; made, she said, in frustration after nearly getting run over from both directions while in a crosswalk:

We should not have to educate seniors, pedestrians, and cyclists on how to deal with reckless drivers. We should stop the reckless driving.

Pretty much sums it up, doesn’t it?


Cyclist and attorney Ross Hirsch updates his webpage, and looks like the bike attorney he is. Mayor Villaraigosa’s bicycle proposals go before the Metro board on Thursday. Car-less Valley Girl finds her bike helmet a useful prop for social interaction. Stripes hit the L.A. River Bike Path through Elysian Valley. The Claremont Cyclist discovers the joys of the unexpected. Turns out the “don’t touch my junk” guy is one of us. Bicycle cops are the best bet for improving campus security. The San Francisco Bicycle Coalition gives out free lights to Ninja cyclists by the Bay. Cyclelicious demonstrates how to avoid the door zone; SF Streetsblog asks if you should say anything to riders who ride there.

An appropriately named Boulder, CO cyclist is arrested for biking under the influence with a BAC of .215. The ups and downs of bike commuting, and a look at Chicago’s Cocktail Party Ride. European car manufacturers are getting on the bike bandwagon; will Detroit follow suit? Can death and serious injury ever be eliminated from our roadways? An off-duty Connecticut police officer was drinking before he ran down a teenage cyclist, but fellow officers neglected to give him a blood test; link courtesy of Urban Velo. Advocacy group People for Bikes gathers their 150,000th pledge; you’ll find mine somewhere around 20,000 or so.

The lead investigator in the Lance Armstrong Inquisition meets with the French anti-doping agency. A London cyclist finds her stolen bike, only to have it slip through her fingers. Regular exercise, such as bicycling, is one of the best things you can do for your health.

Finally, after the year with no summer, this is what November looks like on the beach. And it turns out the reason we need a Subway to the Sea is that above ground rail has been permanently barred from Wilshire Blvd, as in forever.

A couple quick personal notes — a speedy recovery to Rach, who survived a silent collision with a Prius last night, and says she managed to capture a photo of the suspect. Welcome to Cheryl T, who recently bought a bike and joined the L.A. cycling community; remember, new girl buys the donuts. And happy anniversary to LAPD Chief Beck, who in one year has done more to improve relations with the cycling community than all the chiefs who came before.

Riding with a Greasy Wiener, Manhattan non-cyclists ticketed, the Vuelta rolls in España

Only in L.A. could a quick spin along the coast lead result in a Greasy Weiner, getting chased by a Balrog and discovering a badly malfunctioning calendar.

Let’s take that in reverse order.

Seriously, August skies should not look like this in Southern California.

On an otherwise hot and sunny August day, I rolled into Venice and stopped near the pier to scarf down a quick snack. And found myself suddenly transported into mid-January, as the fog rolled in and the temperature dropped a dozen or so degrees in a matter of minutes.

Maybe it’s just me, but I want a do-over on this summer. While the rest of the country has sweltered in record-breaking heat, L.A. cyclists have been donning cold weather gear when we head to the beach.

In August, no less.

Fortunately, the skies cleared a few hundred yards north as I continued on my way, even if it didn’t warm up all that much. Then as I approached Santa Monica, a work crew was setting up the stage for that evening’s concert on the pier.

Evidently, they were doing a sound check, using a bass drum to tap out a steady rhythm so they could check out the levels.

Maybe I’ve read the Lord of the Rings too many times over the years. But as soon as I entered the tunnel under the pier, the boom of the drum reverberating through the timbers, I was instantly transported to the Mines of Moria, with an angry Balrog hot on my trail.

Doom. Doom. Doom…

Fortunately, I managed to escape out the other side, without the assistance of Gandalf the Grey. And found myself surrounded with something far more frightening — a path clogged with tourists as far as the eye could see.

I’ll take Balrogs and Orcs over tourists any day. Nothing personal.

Somehow, though, after numerous stops and starts, swerves and shouted warnings, I managed to make it past the pier area and continued north to where the path ends, dumping riders who want to continue just a little further into the parking lot above Temescal Canyon.

A Greasy Wiener on the beach. Damn, that just cracks me up.

And as I rounded the curve into the final lot, I spotted one of the leading celebrities in L.A.’s food truck boom.

It could just be me. But there was something funny as hell in the idea of stumbling upon a Greasy Weiner on the beach.

Maybe I just need a little more sleep.


In the most shocking news since the Mayor’s conversion to bike activist, a rollerblader is actually ticketed for skating on the Marvin Bruade bike path in Manhattan Beach — despite years of nearly universally ignored “bike only” markings. According to the Beach Reporter,

But the juxtaposition of bicycles, joggers, skateboarders and rollerbladers can lead to disaster on the bike path, according to city police, and bike path violations lead to an infraction and court date.

“It’s dangerous,” said Manhattan Beach Traffic Lt. Andy Harrod. “Bicycles and skaters and joggers just don’t mix.”

Note to Santa Monica: Evidently, it’s actually possible to enforce that restriction, after all. Who knew, huh? Thanks to Jim Lyle for the heads-up.


The media jumps in on the helmet debate, as an ER physician says wearing a helmet is “the single most important thing you can do to determine whether you live or die” in a bike accident, while the BBC notes it may not offer as much protection as you think. A Chicago writer and bike commuter says she didn’t know the subject was up for debate, but Obama has decided to wear one after all; I wonder if the GOP will call that a flip-flop. And bike injuries and deaths cost the country over $5 billion a year.

Meanwhile, a bill requiring mandatory helmet use for underage snowboarders awaits the governors signature, a mandatory bike helmet law for adults could be next; thanks to Brent for the tip.

(For anyone who’s not clear on the subject, I’m for helmet use but against making them mandatory, with all due apologies to our new mayoral BFF.)


The last of the year’s Grand Tours kicks off this weekend, as the legendary Vuelta a España — aka, Tour of Spain — starts with a team time trial; Contador is out, which means the field is wide open. My money is on Andy Schleck, but I’d like to see what a healthy Christian Vande Velde can do.


In upcoming events:

Chinatown Summer Nights hosts its final weekend in Downtown’s Chinatown District from 5 pm to midnight, with DJs, food trucks, and cultural and cooking demonstrations, among other activities; free bike valet courtesy of LACBC.

Sunday, August 29th, LACBC hosts a breakfast and brainstorming session for River Ride volunteers; RSVP by email for more information and location.

Sunday must be volunteer day; CicLAvia is looking for volunteers for outreach canvassing along the CicLAvia route, starting at 3:30 pm on the 29th at Shatto Park; other volunteer opportunities will take place over the coming weeks. Email CicLAviaVolunteer [at] gmail.com if you’d like to pitch in.

LACBC hosts their second monthly mixer from 6 to 8 pm on Wednesday, September 1st at LACBC’s Downtown headquarters, 634 S. Spring Street. It’s a great chance to meet the staff, learn what the organization is doing and maybe even join up yourself or bring in a prospective member.

The curtain parts on the L.A. Bicycle Film Festival this Wednesday, September 1st and runs through the 5th; check the website for schedule and locations.

Flying Pigeon hosts a book signing with photographer and former D.A. Gil Garcetti (you may also know his son Eric) for his book Paris: Women and Bicycles on Thursday, September 9 at 7:30 pm. I had a chance to look it over at this year’s River Ride; if you love beautiful photographs of beautiful women on beautiful bikes in one of the world’s most beautiful cities — and who doesn’t? — this is a beautiful opportunity to meet the man behind the lens.

Make your plans for Parking Day LA on Sept. 17th.

Celebrate the third anniversary of C.R.A.N.K. MOB at C.R.A.N.K.MAS III, 9 pm on Saturday, September 18th and 7 am Sunday, September 19th; costumes mandatory.

Explore the effects of bicycles on art and culture at the Grand Opening of Re:Cycle — Bike Culture in Southern California, October 7th – 9th, at U.C. Riverside’s newly relocated Sweeney Art Gallery at the Barbara and Art Culver Center of the Arts, 3834 Main Street in downtown Riverside. A reception will be held from 6 – 10 pm Thursday, October 7th; the exhibition continues through December 31st.

New Belgium Brewery’s Tour de Fat makes its first L.A. stop on Saturday, October 23rd. The following day, Sony sponsors their bikeless Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon.


Streetsblog reports on Wednesday’s fundraiser. Gary looks back at last Sunday’s successful Tour da Arts. A San Diego cyclist rides 15 miles to celebrate surviving a near fatal head-on collision one year earlier. Courtesy of Cyclelicious, a common sense guide for fat cyclists; one thing I’ve noticed about overweight riders, if you keep at it, you probably won’t be overweight very long. Your next bike jersey could be made from coffee beans; that should perk you up on those early morning rides. An Iowa cycling champion is seriously injured in a collision with a car. An NYC cyclist is critically injured in a hit-and-run. An OKC writer says the roads are crowded with bad and inexperienced drivers, so bikes don’t belong on there; it’s been a long time since I studied Logic in college, but something just doesn’t seem right with that argument. Yet another misguided bike ban, as a Texas town bans bikes from any roads under construction; seriously, they swear it’s for our own safety. Baltimore bikers are getting beaten up by teenagers; maybe they should ban bikes there so we’ll be protected from B-town beat downs. The Onion says Lance has something to tell us, but you have to promise not to get mad (remember, it’s satire, folks). Should London’s bike share program provide helmets for riders who want them? A tip for lazy riders: pick a route with lots of hills. One more reason to ride — you won’t have to drive a car that runs on fecal matter.

Finally, now Copenhagen cyclists get bike butlers to pamper their illegally parked bikes; I need to live a good life so I can go there when I die.

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