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North Portland bikeway improvement project goes back to the drawing board

Posted by on August 19th, 2008 at 9:38 am

High speeds, freeway ramps, and a need for approval by ODOT have stalled a bikeway improvement project in North Portland.
This view is looking west on Rosa Parks at Missouri.
(Photo © J. Maus)

A project to improve the safety of non-motorized traffic on Rosa Parks Way (formerly N. Portland Blvd.) in North Portland has stalled.

Back in April, I shared news that the street would be re-engineered with new bike lanes, curb ramps, and a bike signal; all compliments of an ODOT “Community Enhancement” grant won through their I-5 Delta Park project.

Initially, Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) spokesperson Shelli Romero said the project would be completed by the end of July. However, according to Winston Sandino, a project manager for the City of Portland Office of Transportation (PDOT), several issues have put the plans on hold.

Originally, the plans (view preliminary plans here (opens to JPG)) were to paint bike lanes on Rosa Parks Way from Vancouver Ave. to Montana Ave. (just west of I-5, Google Map), except on the I-5 bridge where bikes were to be directed onto the sidewalk.

However, directing bicycles onto the sidewalk goes against PDOT’s preference to have a continuous bikeway that is separated from pedestrian traffic (there’s also not nearly enough room on the sidewalk for bikes and peds).

Further complicating things, according to Sandino, are the two traffic signals close together at Montana and at the I-5 on-ramp at N. Missouri Ave. where a new bike lane would need to be on the left side of the right turn lane.

To be able to make that work, Sandino says, “We either have to reduce the speed from 35mph to 30mph or put the bike lane on the sidewalk between Montana Avenue and the I-5 on ramp with a bike signal.”

Partly because of those intersections, the project is still mired in the design phase. “Due to the close proximity of traffic signals and the I-5 on ramp,” Sandino wrote in a recent email, “we are looking at a couple of alternatives to bike lanes and we will need to present these options to ODOT.”

One of those options is to reconfigure the lane markings on the I-5 bridge in order to accomodate a bike lane on the roadway. Currently, the bridge has two lanes in each direction and a center turn lane. A new bike lane would require either removal of a lane or a narrowing of the existing lanes.

Since the bridge over I-5 is ODOT property, they must approve of these changes. Sandino says PDOT met with ODOT last week and presented their preliminary calculations and models of various designs.

Sandino reports that the meeting went well: “ODOT had some comments that were very helpful and we are working together to come up with a solution that would work for both of us.” According to Sandino, “it may take a couple more meetings to refine our alternatives.”

Once ODOT approves a design, PDOT can proceed and begin construction. Sandino says that depending on the weather the project can be built this year or next spring.


Anyone that has ridden or walked through this area can attest that it is in dire need of improvements for non-motorized traffic. The speeds are currently too fast for a residential area and the road has very little shoulder room. Bikes and pedestrians share a narrow sidewalk and, with freeway on and off-ramps, there are several tricky intersections.

This project is a perfect opportunity for PDOT to improve safety by working to achieve a more balanced and safe corridor for all modes of traffic.

I’ll keep you posted on how it turns out.

Please support BikePortland.

NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are productive, considerate, and welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. If you see a mean or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Also, if you comment frequently, please consider holding your thoughts so that others can step forward. Thank you — Jonathan

  • Oliver August 19, 2008 at 9:53 am

    Definitely bad. One should always use Ainsworth to cross I-5 westbound or if you must go further north us the pedestrian bridge off of Bryant or Saratoga. Having said that I sometimes cross it eastbound in the morning.

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  • Jonathan Maus (Editor) August 19, 2008 at 9:59 am

    \”One should always use Ainsworth to cross I-5 westbound or if you must go further north us the pedestrian bridge off of Bryant or Saratoga.\”


    People on bicycles should have the same access and assurances of safety and efficiency on public roadways as people driving cars… especially neighborhood streets like this one.

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  • Meep August 19, 2008 at 10:09 am

    From a practical standpoint, Ainsworth is the best way to go. \”should have\” and \”have\” are different concepts and because the project is in North Portland (as opposed to other parts of Portland – and because it\’s over I-5), I imagine that it will be stalled for quite some time.

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  • T Williams August 19, 2008 at 10:17 am

    I got \”teh tinglies\” reading about inter-jusidictions working well together (PDOT & ODOT). It\’s that sort of cooperation that can really help fast-track projects.

    I wonder just how much foot traffic that bridge gets? For three years, when a good buddy lived in that neighborhood and I went to school at PCC, I biked that bridge frequently… can\’t recall ever seeing peds, but what do I know.

    Maybe lop a 12\” off that sidewalk on each side and repaint the lines?

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  • Metal Cowboy August 19, 2008 at 10:19 am

    We go this direction almost daily and find Ainsworth the better path over I-5. I\’m still pulling for a good fix for bicycles over this crossing of I-5. It\’s needed. I haven\’t had any close calls at this double light intersection, but I don\’t use it very often and rarely if ever during rush hours.

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  • Jeff TB August 19, 2008 at 10:23 am

    I think this delay is good. I never liked the idea of funneling bikes onto the sidewalk. Keep us on the roadway where we belong.

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  • Andy August 19, 2008 at 11:03 am

    Ditto on Ainsworth. Even if/after a bike lane is added to Rosa Parks, I\’ll still take Ainsworth. There\’s just a lot less traffic, no on or off-ramps, and speed humps to dissuade drivers.

    Even without having done any math, I\’m still confident in saying Ainsworth would be statistically safer. 🙂

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  • Jessica Roberts August 19, 2008 at 11:09 am

    I live at Albina & Rosa Parks, and when I want to go to New Seasons it isn\’t reasonable for me to have to go to Ainsworth. I feel like I and my neighbors deserve a better connection than the current one…what a yucky street!

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  • Esther August 19, 2008 at 11:26 am

    I second what Jessica said. We live north of Lombard, and my partner works on Dekum-north of Rosa Parks. Going as far south as Ainsworth to cross I-5 adds not negligible distance to his ride, and taking the Bryant St. Bridge, though shorter as the crow flies, takes longer because of the side street access. Rosa Parks is direct, fast and low enough in traffic that it is not unsafe feeling–except where it lacks a bike lane.

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  • kamasue August 19, 2008 at 11:27 am

    I live just west of that intersection, and I actually feel a lot more comfortable crossing it as a pedestrian than as a biker — I use Ainsworth almost exclusively when on my bike, but I agree with #8 that we need a safe biking alternative.

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  • Jonathan Maus (Editor) August 19, 2008 at 11:32 am

    I can see these intersections from my backyard and I walk and bike very frequently on Rosa Parks over I-5.

    The conditions are deplorable and need to be improved ASAP.

    There is a MAX station, a New Seasons Market, a bike shop, and a growing commercial area at N. Interstate and Rosa Parks that draws a lot of people from my neighborhood…

    bottom line is that Rosa Parks needs to be traffic calmed. The speeds are too high and there is a lack of crossing facilities.

    crossing the I-5 bridge on Rosa Parks is loud, scary, and very daunting for most people outside the confines of a car.

    My daughter (5 1/2 years) won\’t even ride her bike on the sidewalk across the bridge because she can sense the discomfort of being so close to so many fast-moving, loud, and potentially dangerous motor vehicles. that is sad.

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  • Jeff TB August 19, 2008 at 11:35 am

    Agreed Jessica. I can take the pedestrian bridge to New Seasons, but like to swing by neighbors houses who live near Rosa Parks during the trip. Doesn\’t make sense to have to backtrack to Bryant.

    Like Metal Cowboy, I rarely if ever use Rosa Parks during rush hour (Joe, isn\’t rush hour more like three hours?)

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  • Donald August 19, 2008 at 12:00 pm

    Plus one for fast action on this. I live just North of the Portland/Michigan intersection.

    I\’m a pretty confident rider and I take the lane on Portland Eastbound, turning left on Michigan to get home. I\’ve had some drivers lock em up behind me as I waited for a hole in Westbound traffic.

    Auto speeds need to come down here.

    I won\’t accept the argument that Ainsworth is the only alternative here. I\’ve had more close calls at the 4-way at Ainsworth and Albina than I have crossing I-5 on Portland.

    That said, never had an issue with I-5 folks wanting to go Southbound. They\’ve always waited for me. It\’s the through traffic that is the bugaboo here.

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  • Donald August 19, 2008 at 12:31 pm

    Oh, just read J\’s note above my entry: I\’ve got two younguns and wouldn\’t do this crossing with either: be that trailer or trailabike.

    The ped/bike overpass N of there gets us to/from New Seasons, Revolver and other points of interest that way when we travel as a clan. The Portland Blvd crossing is not without its moments even then, though.

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  • bean August 19, 2008 at 12:31 pm

    All along, maybe we all should have been talking about putting the old Sauvies bridge here instead of NW….I know I know, there there is no perfect spot…just sayin.

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  • Jim Labbe August 19, 2008 at 12:41 pm

    Lots of good comments here. I agree this is a high priority not only because I use it regularly (hee-hee) but as Jonathan points out there is a real need for a safer, more inviting connection between the park and residential areas east of I-5 to light rail and the emerging commercial district on Interstate.

    Cheers to Winston for trying to work some magic with ODOT.

    BTW… there are other traffic calming measures coming to Rosa Parks… including a pedestrian island at Kerby with a commitment from PDOT to integrate some green elements (landscaping) and perhaps a street tree.

    All this… plus the Bryant Street Crossing work is going to greatly enhance Piedmont for bikes and pedestrians.


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  • Lenny Anderson August 19, 2008 at 1:05 pm

    It is criminal that a key east/west street in Platinum Portland is so daunting for bicyclists and pedestrians.
    The neighborhoods need to tighten the screws on PDOT and ODOT to fix Rosa Parks Way or otherwise just tear out I-5.

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  • beth h August 19, 2008 at 1:39 pm

    Frankly, there are times I\’ve ridden on the sdiewalk to cross the freeway at Rosa Parks because the lanes are too narrow and traffic can get insane.

    I hear the folks who say that bieks belong in the roadway. How do we convince NEW bike riders to ride in the roadway when it clearly is unsafe in SO many places like this?

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  • kg August 19, 2008 at 1:49 pm

    To be able to make that work, Sandino says, “We either have to reduce the speed from 35mph to 30mph or put the bike lane on the sidewalk between Montana Avenue and the I-5 on ramp with a bike signal.”

    So drop the speed limit, what\’s the big deal with that? It seems that our speed limits are pushed to the limits in many places in order to save a few minutes. I propose we make it our priority as a community to save lives instead of minutes.

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  • Donald August 19, 2008 at 1:54 pm

    I just remembered this from my days at college when bike traffic through a narrow breezeway was in dispute: It\’s a sidewalk, not a sideride.

    I guess I\’ve lived it ever since…

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  • BURR August 19, 2008 at 2:10 pm

    when it comes to limited Right-of-Way space and the need to make hard decisions about distributing or allocating that space between modes, cylists always lose in Portland…

    as a result PDOT still can\’t make their bike infrastructure work in the pinch points where it is most needed; nothing new here, it\’s been like this for the last 20 years, apparently no one in the City, Regional or State gov\’t has got the cojones or the political will to overcome these hurdles, and so we are still designing and building roads for motor vehicles first, despite CRC Sam\’s rhetoric to the contrary.

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  • Matthew Denton August 19, 2008 at 3:54 pm

    Dropping the speeds to 30 mph seems like the obvious solution. The few seconds that that will add to a few car trips might save some lives…

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  • John Russell August 19, 2008 at 4:08 pm

    Now, I\’m no regular on this overpass, especially at rush hour, but dropping the speed to 30 doesn\’t sound like a bad idea. Kg had it right when said we need to save lives, not minutes. And again, I can\’t speak for the rush hour traffic, but why are two lanes absolutely needed in each direction? Why not take it down to one each way and then thrown in a bike lane and an extra turn lane in each direction? I don\’t know exactly what is needed traffic-wise, but an extra turn lane could serve to make drivers happier.

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  • Schrauf August 19, 2008 at 10:42 pm

    This particular connection may well deserve a bike lane, especially given the access to light rail, etc., but I am concerned with Jonathan\’s comment that \”People on bicycles should have the same access and assurances of safety and efficiency on public roadways as people driving cars…\”

    Are you implying that every single road should be suitable for bikes, or if not, there should be another option, always requiring zero extra effort or distance?

    That is just asking a little too much, in my opinion. Going a few blocks out of the way for a more pleasant or safer route is not a big deal, once in a while, and as long as cycling infrastructure, in general, is similar in convenience and safety to automobile infrastructure, whether shared or separate.

    Likewise, sometimes as a driver, I take a longer route than if I were walking to the same destination.

    I don\’t ride down MLK for miles and disrupt traffic, when there are other options within blocks on either side of MLK. If I felt like riding close to the speed limit, then I would take a lane and do it, but otherwise, courtesy goes both ways.

    On the other hand, if there was no other convenient option to MLK, I would ride it as much as possible, and encourage others to do the same, and eventually it would become safer, and/or maybe another option would be created.

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  • BURR August 19, 2008 at 10:51 pm

    Hey Schrauf – all public streets should be safe for cyclists whether you choose to ride them or not; and it shouldn\’t be a matter of \’no other convenient option\’, whatever the heck that means.

    Crossing the river or crossing the interstate highways, in particular, is limited to a few specific choices, so your diatribe has little or no meaning in this situation.

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  • Joe Rowe August 19, 2008 at 11:09 pm

    I live nearby and cross i5 using Rosa Parks using both my feet, bicycle and car about 10 times a week.

    here are the things that must be changed

    – Speed reduced from 35 to 25. Many signs clearly posted. Cars often go 40-45 on Rosa Parks and it makes foot, bike crossing a game of death. Pulling a car out on to Rosa Parks from a side street is also dangerous.

    – Buttons installed at all crosswalks so pedestrians can get a walk light.

    – Signs posted, no right turn on red at the i5 intersections. Perhaps a red right arrow light. Cars on the ramp approach a red light and almost kill me on foot even though I have the green and they should stop. They make right hand turns going 10mph ( the rolling stop )

    – The signals for Montana Street should be red most of the time unless a pedestrian presses a button ( or car or bike triggers the induction coils )

    – Green paint should be painted on the bike lanes where the i5 ramps and bike lanes intersect.

    – A green bike box on the SW corner of Rosa Parks for bikes headed East about to cross i5. A green bike box on the NE corner of Rosa Parks for bikes headed West about to cross i5.

    – Car lanes narrowed to make room for bike lanes. The median should also be narrowed.

    I happen to know the budget for this project and some nearby islands is quite large. $130,000 if I recall. What I want from all parties is the truth and the budget made public.

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  • jimbo August 19, 2008 at 11:45 pm

    How wide are those sidewalks on the bridge? Could they be made wider? wide enough to accomodate bikes and pedestrians?

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  • janis August 20, 2008 at 6:53 am

    I live right off of the intersection of Michigan and Rosa Parks. And yes, that is a daunting place to bike and walk. The traffic entering the freeway in either direction is usually good about watching but as a pedestrian or cyclist I feel uncomfortable. Actually I feel uncomfortable even walking on the sidewalk of the bridge. I ride in the street because I am part of traffic.

    I also want to add to the mix all of the traffic that use Michigan to cut through the neighborhoods instead of sitting in the freeway traffic. The north freeway entrance on Rosa Parks is very busy with this traffic, and yes, it is mostly Washington plates.

    I like the fact that ODOT and PDOT are working together on this and the Bryant Street Bridge. I do hope however that the Rosa Street Project isn\’t delayed by too much. We need safer crossings.

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  • Adam August 20, 2008 at 9:56 am

    I\’m hopping on the bandwagon of comments. I use Ainswowrth and Rosa Parks about 50/50.

    I would say that the Rosa Parks-I-5 intersection is poorly designed for bikes and cars.

    That being said, I am always impressed how polite/aware cars and bikes have been at such a poorly designed intersection.

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  • Jonathan Maus (Editor) August 20, 2008 at 10:08 am

    I said:

    \”People on bicycles should have the same access and assurances of safety and efficiency on public roadways as people driving cars…\”

    And Schrauf responded with:

    \”Are you implying that every single road should be suitable for bikes, or if not, there should be another option, always requiring zero extra effort or distance?

    That is just asking a little too much, in my opinion. \”


    I should have qualified that statement a bit more…

    I meant that all roads should be safe and efficient for bicycles, unless a suitable alternative route is available.

    i am speaking from a complete streets perspective… and perhaps I am overly sensitive to anyone making decisions that it\’s \”OK\” for certain streets to be crappy for bikes.

    when/if those decisions are made, they need to be watched carefully and it\’s a discussion that needs to be weighed with caution.

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  • Donald August 20, 2008 at 10:14 am

    @ janis

    We live on Mississippi a few blocks north of Portland Blvd after Michigan tees out.

    Yes, cut-through traffic is an issue.

    After a couple of non-starting attempts to get my neighbors to pony up for some intersection islands I learned that you you really do have to be a law enforcement representive and be able to prove it to order up StopSticks as seen in the last episode of COPS.

    Uniforms get all the fun.

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  • brian b August 20, 2008 at 10:56 am

    Speed reduction to 30 mph on Portland Blvd would be an immediate and productive first step!

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  • peejay August 20, 2008 at 11:22 am

    Speed limit reductions, while justified, are insufficient to change actual speeds driven. Random infrequent radar enforcement actions do no better, except for the duration of the enforcement action.

    Good roadway design should make it obvious what the acceptable speed limit is to all road users even if they don\’t see any signs. The problem with much of American roadway design is that it requires road users to do a lot of reading to stay in compliance with all the various laws that govern its use. Thus, most drivers are spending a lot of their time looking away from the road so they know what not to do, or they take their cues from the road itself, and ignore low speed limit signs when the road seems perfectly wide and straight to them.

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  • Oliver August 20, 2008 at 12:12 pm

    @ #2 Jonathan

    Sorry, I agree completely, I only meant until such times as this was compelted, these are safer alternatives for people coming throught this area.

    Secondly, I probably shouldn\’t be suggesting to anyone what they should be doing. I have fallen into the (bad) habit of giving unsolicited advise to people who are newer at this than me.

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  • Toby August 20, 2008 at 2:05 pm

    I can\’t really comment on crossing I-5 on Rosa Parks, because my route has always taking me across Ainsworth (I only just recently found out about the Bryant St crossing, YAY! thanks Jonathan!), but my big beef with the area is when I ride parallel to I-5 on Montana while crossing Rosa Parks. Drivers exiting I-5 have a no turn on red sign (clearly posted) so that traffic, whether they be cars, bikes, or peds, can cross Rosa Parks safely on their green. More often than not while I cross, someone is making an illegal right on red. I\’ve had more \’close calls\’ there than anywhere else.

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  • Lenny Anderson August 21, 2008 at 8:49 am

    and the PBB is too busy citing bicyclists who coast thru stop signs to bother with the deadly and illegal behavior of these motorists.
    re cut thur traffic…just wait a few years until the massive new I-5 bridge is built…40% more motor vehicle capacity. Then we will have cut thru traffic! In the meantime PDOT should be informed about cut thru traffic from I-5; there are funds available from the Interstate Corridor Urban Renewal Area for mitigating this. Will Stevens at PDOT knows the drill both on the monitoring side and the funding side.

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  • janis August 21, 2008 at 11:39 am

    Hi Lenny and Donald, I have mentioned at the Neighborhood Meetings. Police have sat on the street for speedsters. Unfortunately, they can\’t do anything about cut through traffic which to me is really the issue since those roads weren\’t set up for the traffic volume.

    Since I work near Will Stevens, I will chat with him about the issue.

    Cheers, Janis

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  • Donald August 21, 2008 at 12:55 pm

    @ Janis

    I\’ve received little joy from my crime prevent rep on this.

    The previous one did a fab job of getting rid of some car-bound dealers who were giving a morning to fix to the labor ready crowd (and again as they got off work in the afternoon)

    but the current NE rep hasn\’t had much time for my calls. (NE runs all the way to I-5 on their maps)

    Thanks for the followup and buena suerte.

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  • Toby August 21, 2008 at 3:05 pm

    I thought about that, maybe if I started blowing through it they\’d make a greater presence 😉

    I actually have seen cops parked on the north side of Montana nabbing people, just not since I\’ve been on motorless two wheels.

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  • Pfeenie August 21, 2008 at 7:19 pm

    I regularly use Rosa Parks to commute by bike, and in addition to a continuous bike lane and lower speed limit, I\’d love to see the street get repaved. There are some horrible potholes in the bike lane heading east.

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  • Toby August 22, 2008 at 5:32 pm

    Ha Ha! I spoke too soon. (RE: #35) I went through there today and there was a moto cop there stretching his hands in preparation for some heavy writing! I stopped and chatted for a bit (nice guy btw) and he said that spot was part of his rotation. Sounds like he has several trouble spots that he frequents. Wish I could have chatted longer so I could ask him some more questions, but he was putting on his game face, so I figured I\’d better split 😉

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