Bike Law 101: Waiting (or not) for the school bus

Posted by on April 12th, 2011 at 9:18 am

You’re freewheeling along on your bike. There’s been a change in the weather. The day is dry and it’s even warm enough to drop a layer. The ride just couldn’t be better. And then it happens. The approaching school bus has pulled to the curb just ahead.

Now, with lights ablaze and its stop sign thrust out tauntingly, almost a dare, do you obey or ignore?

Illustration by Dan Pegoda for

Here’s the relevant Oregon statute for this situation:

811.155: Failure to stop for bus safety lights; penalty. 
(1) A driver commits the offense of failure to stop for bus safety lights if the driver meets or overtakes from either direction any vehicle that is stopped on a roadway and that is operating red bus safety lights described under ORS 816.260 and the driver does not:

    (a) Stop before reaching the vehicle; and
    (b) Remain standing until the bus safety lights are no longer operating.
    (*Note: the above statute does not apply to a driver when the bus is stopped on a different roadway, e.g. divided highway)

But, the beauty of bicycling in many Oregon cities is the ease of morphing from having the rights and duties of a motorist to that of a pedestrian. If you choose to get around the bus via the sidewalk — the designated safe haven of pedestrians — you’ll be presented with a different set of challenges.

On the sidewalk (as per ORS 814.410), you must:

  • give an audible signal when overtaking and passing a pedestrian and yield right-of-way to all pedestrians on the sidewalk.
  • slow to a walking speed when approaching or entering a crosswalk and/or driveway, or when crossing a curb cut or pedestrian ramp when a motor vehicle is approaching. 
  • not operate your bicycle in a careless manner that endangers or would likely endanger any person or property.
  • not operate an electric assisted bicycle.

If you find yourself behind a school bus in Portland’s downtown core, you may want to think twice about rolling onto the sidewalk, because It’s illegal to do so downtown (unless avoiding a traffic hazard; and sorry, a stopped school bus isn’t considered a traffic hazard). The illegal sidewalk riding area is bounded by and including SW Jefferson, Front Avenue, NW Hoyt and 13th Avenue (there are some exceptions, see Portland Code and Charter Chapter 16.70.320).

Of course you can ignore the law and continue on without stopping at all. But, if you accept the option to sit out the delay, it may give you time to wonder about the intent of the school bus law. After all it’s meant to keep children safe as they cross the street or congregate around the bus. Despite the personal inconvenience of waiting, the letter of the law may be important here because as a living, breathing distraction in the landscape, you are probably being observed by some of the kids on the bus. These are the future cyclists of America and you, standing by, are serving as a role model.

It isn’t often you are given the opportunity to do the right thing so easily and impress a very impressionable audience at the same time. Maybe it’s worth a couple minutes of standing still.

— Bike Law 101 appears twice a month and is written by Karen Lally and Kurt Jansen of the non-profit Animated Traffic Law Center based in Eugene, Oregon. See past articles here.

  • ralph April 12, 2011 at 9:30 am

    “These are the future cyclists of America and you, standing by, are serving as a role model.

    It isn’t often you are given the opportunity to do the right thing so easily and impress a very impressionable audience at the same time. Maybe it’s worth a couple minutes of standing still. ”

    So why doesn’t this apply to rolling stop signs?

    It’s the law.

    You’re setting an example there as well?

    You’re CHOOSING to break the law by doing so.

    So how about it, are the laws meant to be obeyed or not?

    Seems like there’s a bit of cherry picking going on here when it comes to the law.

    And once you choose which laws you will or won’t obey, you lose the moral high ground and give up the right to complain about drivers doing the same.

    And spare me they’re driving a 3000 lb lethal weapon arguement.

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    • buglas April 12, 2011 at 9:37 am

      Hi ralph,
      You may want to wait for some commenters to weigh in before making the cherry picking observation. These columnists, if you follow the link to past articles, have never advocated practicing any form of the currently illegal rolling stop.
      – doug

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      • ralph April 12, 2011 at 12:25 pm

        I recall a number of articles on this blog referencing “sting” operations where cyclists were ticketed for running stop signs.

        Those articles stated quite clearly that running the stop sign while against the law was totally acceptable.

        So I consider that there is cherry picking on this blog pertaining to when one should or shouldn’t obey the law.

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        • are April 13, 2011 at 8:49 am

          this particular piece is attributed to particular authors based in eugene, not to jonathan or any of his staff.

          also, i don’t see motorists self-regulating their behavior to make favorable impressions on anyone, let alone children.

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    • matt picio April 12, 2011 at 10:25 am

      True, good points – though as mentioned, it’s the comments on this site that usually recommend actions which are currently against the law, not the articles themselves. That said, there should be differences in the law – bikes are not cars, any more than cars are commercial trucks. We have different laws for different vehicle types – different licensing requirements (they get more stringent by weight class)

      As for being a role model, while the stop sign argument is true, I think the point here is that one is far more apt to influence a bus of 50 kids than one kid standing/playing/walking near a stop sign. The impact of stopping for the school bus is greater.

      It’s not just cyclists ignoring the laws – how many cars come to a *complete* stop at stop signs? How many stop before the stop bar/crosswalk at intersections? For pedestrians in crosswalks? This morning, I was riding downtown on Vancouver Ave and a pedestrian stepped off the curb on the LEFT side of the road. I stopped for him, and 4 cars in the main traffic lane continued past without stopping. Then when he started to cross and was still in the lane, a 5th car never even slowed down, even though he wasn’t yet clear.

      Very few people obey the letter of the law, though most come close, and obey the spirit of the law.

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      • ralph April 12, 2011 at 12:28 pm

        I never denied that drivers don’t roll stop signs.

        I called out the hypocrisy of those who don’t follow the law and then complain when others don’t follow the law.

        Until the law is changed it is the law, you violate it at your own risk.

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        • matt picio April 12, 2011 at 3:37 pm

          I never said you did.

          You said that those who pick and choose which laws to follow give up the moral high ground. I agree, and I’m saying that drivers are as guilty of that as riders. Very, very few people follow the law to the letter in every instance.

          I agree with those who say that many of the laws should be modified to reflect the difference between human-powered transportation and motorized transportation – but those laws haven’t been changed *yet*, so I also agree with you and others who say that people should obey the laws now as they are written until they are changed – except when doing so compromises the safety of the operator or others.

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        • mabsf April 12, 2011 at 3:41 pm

          Hi Ralph,
          Don’t you see the hypocrisy in calling out bikers about rolling stops and cars not slowing for pedestrians (unmarked cross walks are part of the traffic laws, too!)?
          I think we are all sitting in a glass house here…

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        • Mike Fish April 12, 2011 at 11:34 pm

          “You violate it at your own risk.”

          Sounds like a veiled threat.

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    • Mike Fish April 12, 2011 at 11:33 pm

      Like going 46 mph in a 45 mph zone?

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    • Spiffy April 13, 2011 at 3:19 pm

      rolling a stop sign is just that, a stop sign… to pass a bus with flashing red lights AND a stop sign is to run a red light AND roll a stop sign… I’ve never seen anybody post an article on this blog that said that running a red light (no matter where it is) is ok…

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  • Greg April 12, 2011 at 9:41 am

    I don’t mind stopping for a school bus. What does bother me is when the school bus guns it to get around me, just so they can throw on the red lights and stop…repeatedly…every 100 yards. For crying out loud, can’t the kiddos walk a block or two?

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    • Mark Allyn April 12, 2011 at 10:25 am

      I have asked a friend who used to drive school busses. The reason that they insist on passing is that they are on an **incredibly** tight schedule. Parents wait with their kids at the stops. If the bus is more than a *few* minutes late, the school department and the bus driver *will* catch hell.

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  • Kristen April 12, 2011 at 9:44 am

    I don’t know, Doug…. the articles from these folks that have been posted here on BP show a distinct slant towards the “do whatever’s most convenient for you” side of the spectrum.

    I encountered a school bus this morning. I stopped and waited, right next to the car just behind the school bus. I stopped because IT’S THE LAW. It’s pretty cut and dried.

    I wasn’t going to hop up on the sidewalk to flout the law, either, because I’m more adult than that.

    Yeah, I stop at red lights and stop signs, too. Because it’s the law.

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    • Peter Noone April 12, 2011 at 11:54 am

      Are you sure it’s really as simply cut and dried as “it’s the law”? Most significant movements over the years have relied on some degree of civil disobedience. In a system that’s systemically biased toward a particular mode, it’s almost impossible to not flout the law.

      This is not to say that I think cyclists are justified in breaking laws at random and with total impudence, but I do think the situation is a bit more complicated than you’re allowing for.

      Speaking of flouting the law, where riding on the sidewalk is legal, how can one flout the law by doing so? Just because you have a particular take on the situation doesn’t mean other people are less mature or that you’re more righteous.

      Or, in other words, do you think insulting people (tacitly or otherwise) is actually productive?

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      • Kristen April 13, 2011 at 10:53 am

        Most things with law are not cut and dried– however, when riding a bike vehicularly, following the same laws as the other road users is cut and dried.

        That said, does everyone follow all laws? Nope, as Mike Fish and others have pointed out, people follow the laws that are most convenient– as long as people are not making conditions unsafe, everyone lets it ride.

        The main gist of my comment, however, was that the people who write these guest articles seem to leave me (and, it seems, others) with the impression that it’s okay to ignore the laws if you don’t agree with them. If we know that we have to stop at stop signs and school buses, and there’s a fine specified for that, then we can’t complain when we get ticketed for disobeying the law.

        Or rather, we shouldn’t complain. Instead, we should work harder to get the law changed. I don’t agree with some of the reasoning behind the Idaho stop bill, but that has nothing to do with school buses.

        Yeah, bikes and cars are different animals, and there are different laws for different kinds of vehicles already on the books. It makes sense that there should be a whole ‘nother set of laws for people on bikes. But there isn’t, currently.

        I guess I just wasn’t clear enough– and should have left my anecdote out of my comment altogether. The plural of anecdote is not data.

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    • Mike Fish April 12, 2011 at 11:36 pm

      Seriously, cut and dry? Do you ever go 36 in a 35 zone? or 51 in a 50? Do you stop at all unmarked crosswalks to wait for pedestrians, even when in a 4 or 6 lane road? You probably don’t even know all the laws your breaking.

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      • Kristen April 13, 2011 at 10:36 am

        Wow, I didn’t know that you sit in my car when I drive or live in my head.

        You don’t know what laws I do or don’t know– you yourself would be surprised at what other people know that you ASSUME they don’t.

        And you know what happens when you ASSUME, although in this case you are only ASSU’ing.

        I know what laws I’m breaking and what laws I’m obeying. I actually take the time to stay up-to-date on those things. Do you?

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  • Mark C April 12, 2011 at 9:44 am

    Ralph, give it a rest. Cars and bikes are not the same, so bikes can safely operate differently than cars with out giving up their right to use the roads. This strict vehicular cycling interpretation gets tiresome. As pointed out above, bikes can legally use the sidwalk outside of downtown while cars certainly can’t.

    BTW, I’d stop for the bus rather than try to go around on the sidewalk.

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    • ralph April 12, 2011 at 12:32 pm

      Stop with the attitude that we as cyclists can ignore the law at will while demanding everyone else to follow it to the letter.

      Wonder why cyclists in Portland are labeled as having a sense of entitlement? it’s because of this attitude.

      Don’t like the law work to change it, because unless otherwise stated we as cyclists are required to follow the law.

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      • El Biciclero April 12, 2011 at 1:29 pm

        ralph, you’re changing your argument here. First you are claiming that cyclists must obey every letter of every law, because otherwise they can’t be “good role models”. Now you’re claiming the hypocrisy argument that cyclists must obey they law to a T because we all demand letter-of-the-law compliance from every user of every other mode. I’ll bet if you look a little deeper, you’ll find that most cyclists don’t mind a little law-breaking by motorists or pedestrians, as long as it doesn’t put other people in danger. I don’t care if motorists want to roll a stop sign–just don’t come up from behind me after I’ve stopped and try to roll a right turn just as I start moving again “to teach me a lesson”. That kind of move puts me in danger. I don’t care if you want to drive 5 mph over the speed limit–just don’t pass me within inches while you’re doing it. I don’t even care so much if you want to make unsignaled lane changes or turns; just make sure the way is clear first and don’t run over me while doing it.

        The real call here is for everyone to operate their vehicles safely and courteously, whether or not they do so within the letter of the law. I would ask, however, that at least people learn the laws before they go breaking them.

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  • jocko April 12, 2011 at 9:44 am

    Ralph, (insult deleted) Plenty of cyclists come to a complete stop at stop signs and plenty of motorists roll through stop signs, the article above makes no mention of either.

    This is a great article that covers a subject that many p-town cyclists are ignorant about. This one kind of falls in the same category as one of my bike-beefs, which is cyclists failing to yield right of way to peds in a crosswalk.

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  • John Lascurettes April 12, 2011 at 9:50 am

    In my neighborhood, I’ve simply gotten off my bike, walked past the bus and remounted. Are we SO averted to a little walking now and then? I do the same downtown when using a crosswalk (where technically it’s an extension of a sidewalk and therefore illegal for bikes).

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    • Brian E. April 12, 2011 at 10:13 am

      I do this too.

      I sure it would not be wrong for a motor cycle?

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    • Jeff April 12, 2011 at 11:09 am

      I agree John. The answer seems quite obvious. Stop and wait.

      My question comes from something you mentioned. When is a bicycle a vehicle and when must they behave like a pedestrian? Every day I see cyclists riding (not walking) in crosswalks, while trying to use the rights of pedestrians to get cars to stop for them. Only to then turn and merge into a bike lane and then become “vehicular traffic”.

      “…the beauty of bicycling in many Oregon cities is the ease of morphing from having the rights and duties of a motorist to that of a pedestrian.” This statement in the above article is the root of so much of my frustration with cyclists in Portland. Many only want to act according to how the circumstances can be made to suit them. Whether it’s cyclists passing buses, riding in the cross walks, joggers running the wrong way in bike lanes or people who have to take their dog to every restaurant and grocery store they go to, we are all selfish in some way.

      I think the answer is clear and direct. If you’re operating as a vehicle in a vehicular (bike) lane you are required to stop for the school bus. If you’re walking on the sidewalk next to where a school bus stops then keep on walking.

      But hey, it’s Portland so just do what ever you like. People here are way to polite to ever call each other out on flagrantly breaking the law anyway. Ride on.

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      • Psyfalcon April 12, 2011 at 5:14 pm

        When operating your bike on the sidewalk, you are operating it as a pedestrian. You must slow to a walking pace before entering a crosswalk. There is no actual legal requirement to walk your bike on the sidewalk or crosswalk.

        You may also inline skate on the sidewalk without removing them, and there is actually no legal requirement to slow to a walking pace at the crosswalk.

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  • deborah April 12, 2011 at 11:32 am

    I really like your point about the impressionable audience Jonathan!

    And yes, Ralph, I do stop for most all stop signs too. I’m not 100% perfect – but my percentage is easily as good as any car driver, if not loads better. I even signal too! The idea of winning over a group of kids (or even an old curmudgeon like you Ralph) is not lost on me on my daily commute.

    Some bikers give bikers a bad name. But isn’t that the case with any large group of people? I tell you what Ralph – I won’t assume you’re a passive aggressive road hog and please don’t assume I’m some flagrant scofflaw! We’re all individuals just trying to get where we’re going.

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    • ralph April 12, 2011 at 12:39 pm

      Thanks for making it personal.

      “Curmudgeon” “passive agressive” “road hog”.
      Thanks for coming to the debate arguing the issue.

      I’m just pointing out the inconsistency of the position presented on the blog.

      I don’t need convincing that cyclists flout the law on a regular basis then have a hissy fit when everyone else doesn’t follow it to the letter.

      As someone who makes their living in the bicycle industry I rely on there being a thriving bicycling population.

      But as someone who makes their living in the bicycle industry I also receive a lot of feed back from the general population on the perceived unsafe actions of cyclists in the Portland metro area, the outright blatant flouting of the law.

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      • q`Tzal April 12, 2011 at 3:36 pm

        And there is a lot of this hypocritical double standard, “cars drivers have to follow all the laws but it’s ok for cyclists to ignore the law when they feel like”.

        This is the crux of cycling’s public relations problem in the USA and especially Portland.
        By dint of the shear number of cyclists in Portland displaying their public disregard for the same laws that we as a community demand that auto drivers obey we are placing ourselves as superior to drivers and above the law.

        This will not stand. Our blatant disregard for the rules of the road demand irrational anger from the community of non-cycling auto drivers.

        Cyclists law breaking, even as a small percentage, has a direct feedback in to our public image.

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        • spare_wheel April 13, 2011 at 7:15 am

          sorry but imo cyclists are superior to motorists (and on many levels).

          i also tend to dislike societies or people who blindly follow flawed laws. disobedience is an important change mechanism in democratic societies.

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  • Oliver April 12, 2011 at 11:56 am

    I’ve had the driver of the yellow bus on North Concord watch in their mirror and actually wait until I’ve ridden past before turning the flashers from yellow to red. The couple times it has happened it totally makes my commute, and that driver is on par with the ladies who drive bus in Oakridge as far as I’m concerned.

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  • El Biciclero April 12, 2011 at 12:03 pm

    ralph–not to pile on, but I think there are nuances to “being a role model” that your argument doesn’t take into a account. If I roll a stop sign at an empty intersection, and later on stop at an uncontrolled intersection (no stop signs) to allow a pedestrian to cross, and some “future cyclist” observes me in both situations, am I being a positive role model or not? How about if I blast through both intersections, brushing back the ped in the second one?

    I would suggest that it is still possible to send the positive message that common courtesy and respect for one’s fellow humans are important principles, even if one doesn’t obey the letter of every last law.

    I encounter school buses almost every day on my commute. There is one that sometimes stops ahead of me to pick up kids on the sidewalk adjacent to where I am riding. I stop for that bus not because the lights are flashing, but because I would have to push my way through a crowd of kids trying to get on the bus if I didn’t wait. Pushing my way through a crowd of kids waiting to get on the bus seems like a jerky thing to do, so I don’t do it. If the bus was stopped in the opposite direction on the other side of the street, would I stop? I don’t know, maybe.

    On the other hand, I was stopped at a red light one day last year, in the bike lane, when a school bus came up from behind me, stopped at the red, and then rather than wait 8 seconds for the light to change and me to get out of the way, the driver decided to make a right turn on the red, literally brushing me as she cut the corner. Only time I’ve ever slapped a vehicle–but it did no good; she knew I was there and decided to plow on past anyway. Was she doing anything illegal? Maybe, maybe not. Was she being a good role model? I sure didn’t think so.

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  • Barney April 12, 2011 at 12:16 pm

    Every person makes daily choices about which laws to follow and break. If you never break any laws whatsoever, then you are either in constant fear of punishment or you have infinite faith that all legislation is created sensibly and with better insight into our lives than we ourselves can provide.

    On this topic, I don’t pass buses on my bike because the probability of hitting a child is pretty high, something I would like to avoid. I don’t come to a full stop at most stop signs because the failure of Oregon to adopt the Idaho stop-law is ridiculous and I’m an adult who can safely navigate most intersections without putting my foot down first.

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  • Lee April 12, 2011 at 12:17 pm

    This is why we need mandatory crosswalk license testing for schoolchildren – they can wear the license plates on their backpacks or something. And why do those freeloaders get those painted stripes, anyhow? They don’t even pay gas taxes!

    Same roads, same rights.

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  • PorterStout April 12, 2011 at 12:41 pm

    Hey, only people like Ralph who have never exceeded the speed limit on, say, I-5 or I-84 are allowed to look down on everyone else from their morally superior position, because the speed limit “is the law” and exceeding it turns such self-proclaimed paragons of virtue into nothing more than self-righteous hypocrites. It’s just like Ralph said, “And once you choose which laws you will or won’t obey, you lose the moral high ground…” So everyone but Ralph can just step off this argument. Thank goodness for moral watchdogs like Ralph.

    The reason to stop behind a bus is because there are children present, who might run out into the street without looking. It’s a good idea to slow down or stop when there are groups of children present, whether or not “it’s the law.” Same thing goes for pedestrians on the bike path.

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    • ralph April 12, 2011 at 12:56 pm

      I was asking for a consistent view point from the blog on following the law.

      I was pointing out that it has been very inconsistent.

      I was pointing out that those of you who choose to disobey the law are the ones who shout the loudest when others do exactly what you do.

      Feel free to roll stop signs. That’s your choice, but don’t complain about others doing the same thing. Don’t complain about getting ticketed.

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      • Mike Fish April 12, 2011 at 11:57 pm

        I don’t care if cars do California stops or drive 36 in a 35. I only care if reckless behavior from a bike, bus, or car puts me or others in danger.

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      • spare_wheel April 13, 2011 at 7:25 am

        The idea that one should follow all laws with equal consistency is frightening. there are good and bad laws. Choosing which ones to support (or follow) is part of your responsibility as a citizen.

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      • are April 13, 2011 at 8:54 am

        so are you also asking that guest writers not be allowed to post anything?

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    • jeff April 12, 2011 at 1:29 pm

      thank you, PorterStout, for bringing some sort of rational point to this seemingly assinine discussion.

      if there are people on this forum who believe that passing a bus with red flashing lights while riding is somehow justified, then you seriously need to have a discussion with yourself about your impatience and self-indulgent attitude.

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  • bobcycle April 12, 2011 at 2:18 pm

    Ralph, Comments made have been argued before. IMO, You’ve brought nothing new to the “table”. You have side tracked the discussion but if you feel better for it I guess it accomplished something. 25% of the above comments are yours, the rest are comments to your comments… and now back to our regular program…..

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  • mmann April 12, 2011 at 3:05 pm

    Ralph said: “I was asking for a consistent view point from the blog on following the law.”

    Without getting into the debate on stop/don’t stop/walk on the sidewalk (I bike commute 100+ miles/week and I drove a school bus for 3 years, so I’ve been on both sides) I just want to say that expecting consistency on a blog like bikeportland seems like an oxymoron, given the diversity of opinions the blog seeks to represent. Maybe some see the site as “Jonathan Maus says,” but I sure never saw it that way. I usually learn something whenever I follow the thread of a contentious post. For instance, I usually ride the sidewalk past the bus that takes 5 minutes to load 40 kids at the apartment, but never really thought before about how the kids saw my action before reading this post. Now I will.

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  • gwynnebaer April 12, 2011 at 3:08 pm

    Ralph, Comments made have been argued before. IMO, You’ve brought nothing new to the “table”. You have side tracked the discussion but if you feel better for it I guess it accomplished something. 25% of the above comments are yours, the rest are comments to your comments… and now back to our regular program…..

    Well said, @bobcycle. On to the topic:

    Seems clear to me, a bicyclist, when presented with the bus scenario above, must act as a “car” and stop. Sidewalks are almost never a good choice. Most of the issues with cyclists and cars alike that I see revolve around a profound lack of patience. But sometimes you just have to wait.

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    • snapbrim April 13, 2011 at 10:17 am

      “Patience.” That’s the sound of the nail being hit squarely on its head. Too many people seem to be convinced that their time is more valuable and thier needs more pressing than everyone else’s. I can’t say that I know the solution, but I do think this is one of the fulcrum points in this whole issue.

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  • Chris Shaffer April 12, 2011 at 4:37 pm

    Maybe someone can tell us where Ralph works in the bike industry, so I can stop shopping there?

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    • dan April 12, 2011 at 5:26 pm

      Now that’s really bring something to the table, well done.

      As a retired Los Angeles motorcycle commuter, I’m all for consistancy, and agree with the sentiments Ralph brings up.

      Similar to the whole “all trails should be open to mt. bikes” arguement.

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      • snapbrim April 13, 2011 at 10:08 am

        Can we get a 10-9 on that, Dan, I think your signal’s breaking up. What was that about mountain bikes and trails and somehow that had something to do with buses and stop signs?

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  • Kenji Sugahara April 12, 2011 at 9:45 pm

    As John says- pull a cyclocross if you can! (I can’t imagine shouldering a cruiser). The kids may even get a kick out of it.

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  • Brock Dittus April 12, 2011 at 9:56 pm

    I’m a school bus driver as well as a bicyclist, and I do my best to be aware of traffic so I don’t needlessly obstruct it’s flow when I activate my red lights. Most unhappy customers I have encountered are motor vehicle operators who confuse my amber hazard lights with my 8-way red flashers and stop sign and won’t pass me even when there are clear directions printed onto the back of the bus. I’ve had a few instances where a bicyclist will speed past me during a red light loading procedure, but not many. More often I hear angry tales from other bus drivers who may or may not understand a bicycle’s rights on the road – or may not have encountered one of the better bicyclists.

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  • JOe April 12, 2011 at 10:32 pm

    I always stop for a school bus loading and unloading. As for the stop sign debate, if an auto is approaching I stop, if there is no other traffic at the intersection I roll through slowly. As I suspect almost every cyclist does. The folks who really irk me are those who speed through stop signs. In autos they are lethally dangerous. On bikes they are suicidal.

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  • Greg April 12, 2011 at 10:45 pm

    Personally, I think the “stop for the bus law” is misguided at best. It teaches young impressionable children that vehicles will magically stop for them…twice a day. I think the young pedestrians need to learn to play by the rules.

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    • snapbrim April 13, 2011 at 10:03 am

      But technically they are playing by the rules. So, really, what it teaches them is that when a bus stick out its little red “stop” sign, other vehicles are supposed to stop and wait. And hopefully the little tykes will remember that when they grow up to operate vehicles of their own.

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      • snapbrim April 13, 2011 at 10:13 am


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    • El Biciclero April 13, 2011 at 11:46 am

      This is a good, but tricky point. I’ve had encounters with “adults” getting off of the city bus and immediately walking into traffic by crossing the street in front of the still-stopped bus. In one case a lovely young lady gave me a carefree smile as I skidded to a stop to avoid hitting her after she blithely popped out from in front of a stopped Tri-Met bus. I have to think that these young adults were former school bus riders.

      As with helmet laws (please don’t continue that debate here), voting laws, alcohol consumption laws, driving age laws, etc., there are many cases in our society where the rules for kids are different from the rules for adults. The trick lies in helping kids transition from one set of rules to another. Maybe school buses that carry only older kids (e.g., high-school age) should stop using the flashers and give kids instructions as they deboard to wait until after the bus leaves and it is safe to cross before crossing the street.

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  • Mike Fish April 12, 2011 at 11:58 pm

    I always stop for school buses and don’t bother with the sidewalk.

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    • Kristen April 13, 2011 at 10:42 am

      I also stop for school buses and don’t bother with the sidewalk.

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  • James Crawford April 13, 2011 at 6:05 am

    The school bus stop is probably the most extreme case to demonstrate why even bikes should obey the traffic laws. A 200 pound spoker colliding with a forty pound kid is almost as likely to be lethal as the evil, 4,000 pound SUV running down the kid.
    Of equal importance is that the law exists to avoid conflicts. Just as idiot auto drivers who refuse to notice bikes or intentionally endanger them provoke the righteous wrath of spokers, arrogant bikers who presume that the traffic laws shouldn’t apply to them provoke the resentment of motorists. The refusal of the PDX police to make mass arrests at the critical mass rallies should shame rge cycling community just as the staue honoring the Zoo bombers is a disgrace.

    Now how about an article about lane discipline, illegal passing, and maintaining a safe stopping distance. You might also want tobwrite an article about road rage! The crowning achievement would be an article that documents how bikers who angrily confront motorists emulate the tactics of xarjackers and thus give them good cause to respond with force?

    Perhaps you could have Seargent Santos research and write it?

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    • El Biciclero April 13, 2011 at 12:09 pm

      The injury and death of pedestrians and cyclists in the recent spate of hit-and-run crimes in the Portland area is perhaps the most extreme case to demonstrate why drivers should follow the law! Cagers in their 4000-lb. death machines kill several people every single day, while maniacal, scofflaw cyclists kill approximately zero people every year (at least in Oregon).

      As long as we’re bringing in unrelated topics, maybe we could compare how often cyclists and peds come literally inches from death at the hands of motorists with the number of times drivers are frightened by a pedestrian or cyclist–that they just almost killed–going all carjacker on them. Maybe we could also research how the cavalier treatment and bully tactics many drivers exhibit toward cyclists and pedestrians emulate the behavior of sociopaths and thus provide good cause for psychiatric evaluation. Perhaps we could discuss how this sociopathic behavior is encouraged by the refusal of police to enforce traffic laws and lack of action by police when a cyclist is injured or has their property destroyed by a careless driver.

      How about articles on knowing the laws, turn signal use, mirror positioning, checking blind spots, yielding to existing traffic in a lane, stopping before making right turns on red, looking left while turning right, allowing safe passing distance, and the piece de resistance: an article about how driving is a privilege, not a right.

      Give me a break.

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      • James Crawford April 14, 2011 at 7:02 am

        New York City has an excellent study on the incidence of pedestrians being killed or injured by collisions with Bikes. The number is not large, but it is far from zero.

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        • El Biciclero April 14, 2011 at 9:57 am

          Oregon. We don’t live in New York.

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      • James Crawford April 14, 2011 at 9:19 am

        Since you insist on being hosile, let us review the Santos Fornshell confrontation.

        The first encounter alkegedly occurred when Fornshell passed Santos somewhere along Cornelle Road. I’ve read no statements that describe the approximate location.

        The second encounter allegedly occurred at a traffic control device where Fornshell turned into Santos without signaling as Santos was passing Fornshell.
        A few points here.
        There are no stop signs or stop lights on Cornelke between Skyline and NW 25th. The PDX police department spokeswoman might have known this which might explain whynthe initial report of the incident in The Oregonian described this encounter as occurring at 25th & Lovejoy and that Santos was on Fornshell’s right.
        There might be a presumed traffic control device at the intersection of Cornelle and Lovejoy. However; given the absence of a traffic control device on Cornelle at this intersection and the presence of a stop sign on Lovejoy combined with the consistency of the pavement at the Cornelle Rd to Lovejoy transition vs the much lower quality of pavement on Lovejoy, few people realize that they are legally making a left turn onto another road at this point. While people are technically required to use their turn signal here, I’ve never, ever seen anyone including police vehicles use their turn signal at this intersection.
        The only traffic control device along Cornelke road between Skyline and NW 25 is the barrier at Westover.
        Santos’ complaint is that Fornshell failed to signal for a turn and turned into him when he encountered him at a traffic control device, so this would be the only possible location for this encounter to have occurred.
        I have news for you people. Google Maps reveals that there is only one travel lane, no bike lane and a solid yellow line along this segment of Cornelke road. There is no location where it would be legal for Santos to pass Fornshell. It is particularly illegal for Santos to pass Fornshell at the intersection with Westover because it is illegal to pass in an intersection where there is only one travel lane and also illegal to pass on the opposite side if the decider. The only way for Santos to have had Fornshell turn into him is if Santos attempted to pass Fornshell in the same travel lane between Fornshell and the decider. This is illegal and extremely dangerous.

        Leaving aside the rest of the encounter, Santos’ admits that he was riding his bike in an illegal and unsafe manner. If this case had gone to Court, any goid defense attorney would have torn Santos a new one. It would have been impossible for Santos to testify that his police report was accurate without committing perjury. This could have resulted in a felony conviction as well as the loss of his job.

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        • El Biciclero April 14, 2011 at 10:03 am

          You’re supporting my point by focusing a really long reply on ONE incident, when cyclists are buzzed, cut off, forced off of the road, hit, etc. dozens of times every single day without getting “Santosed”.

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          • El Biciclero April 14, 2011 at 11:04 am

            Should say, “…without the offending drivers getting ‘Santosed’…”

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          • James Crawford April 14, 2011 at 6:23 pm

            You are of course correct. There are many, many times when bikes get the shaft from cars. Sometimes it is an intentional assault. Given my experience of having my brother intentional ran down by a robber with a Dodge van, I absolutely agree that these assaults should be dealt with jest as severely as a shooting. (I’d also like to see the shootings dealt with severely as well, but that is a different subject. More often these collisions with bikes are the result of the car drivers inattention. However; my point here is that many of these collisions occur because the biker was violating the law which resulted in the bike being where the motorist would not expect them to be.

            Finally, I’d point out that the CDC stats on “non-motorized transport” fatalities reveal that fifteen to twenty-five year old males are far, far more likely to get killed than anyone else including the young children that Re Greenlick claims to be concerned about. This is partially a reflection of people in this age group riding bikes more than others. Yet the same is true for females and they don’t have as severe a fatality rate. Part of the problem is that young adult males are just as stupid about biking as they are about cars, guns, swimming, sex and just about anything else.

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          • El Biciclero April 15, 2011 at 1:45 pm

            Replying to myself, since we are out of levels…

            Not to be hostile, but here you appear to have inverted your original assertion, which was (if I may summarize what it sounded like to me), “Bikes can cause injuries to kids, therefore they need to follow all laws, especially the school bus passing laws.” Now you appear to be saying, “Cyclists can cause their own deaths or injuries by riding illegally, therefore they need to follow all the laws”.

            This is something I hear over and over again, from many different people. It seems to start from a general feeling of annoyance at the presence of cyclists, from an imagining that anybody on a bike on the road is taking away a driver’s freedom to use the road as they see fit. Then such drivers (or even “good” cyclists!) will look for reasons to support their view that cyclists (or other, “bad” cyclists) shouldn’t be on the road. Usually, the two reasons that they come up with are a) cyclists don’t pay into the pot to construct and maintain roads (which is false), and b) cyclists don’t obey traffic laws (which is hypocritical, since motorists don’t either). When those reasons fail–or just to add further supposed weight to their arguments–drivers will claim that cyclists are “dangerous” and somehow “pose a threat” to other road users. They will start by pointing out that a cyclist, running full-speed into a pedestrian–especially a child or an old person–could kill the pedestrian! What a menace! When it is pointed out that this actually hardly ever happens, or only happens in faraway places like New York City, and that really, yes, a cyclist could kill a pedestrian, drivers and automobiles do kill and maim pedestrians and cyclists every day, to the point where comparing the relative danger to others of driving a car vs. riding a bike is patently ridiculous, then the argument comes around to something like you appear to be saying here: “cyclists can get themselves killed if they’re not careful”. Well, so can pedestrians who cross the street carelessly. So can kids who play with their parents’ guns. So can electricians. So can drivers.

            What this always tends to sound like to me is that people are not concerned for the safety of pedestrians that cyclists may hit (otherwise there would be equal outcry against motorists and their scofflaw ways), they are not concerned about cyclist safety (since the “they can get themselves killed” argument is usually the last one made, after all else has failed); they are concerned about two things: 1) It’s No Fair that cyclists [seem to] get away with so much and they don’t have to have license plates, and 2) I don’t want to get hauled through the justice system for hitting some stupid cyclist that got himself run over by me.

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          • James Crawford April 15, 2011 at 7:11 pm

            Having to move up the posting chain because we’ve reached the nesting limit.

            It isn’t an issue of bikes not belonging on the road because they don’t pay taxes or such BS. Bikes do belong on the road right along with cars ad trucks and buses and pedestrians. It is an issue of what behaviors create situations that result in accidets.

            You seem to be of the opinion that because bikes seldom kill pedestrians, they shouldn’t have to obey traffic laws that are intended to protect pedestrians. I’ve already conceded the point that cars kill pedestrians a lot more often then bikes kill pedestrians. However, the number is not inconsequential and it doesnt just happen in New York City. The potential lethality is a direct result of kinetic energy and relative mass. Above speeds of about 30 mph a bike has more than enough kinetic energy to ve lethal. If you want to test this, go ride your bike into a brick wall at 30moh. The forces and accelerations you would experience are actually far less severe than that experienced by a child if you hit them. The low number of bike vs pedestrian deaths is do to severe restrictions placed on bikes riding on sidewalks where such a collision is more likely. The restrictions are intentionally onerous to force bikes onto the road. A school bus is another situation where there is a significant risk that anyone, car, truck or bike, could kill a pedestrian. That is why we have the mandatory stop laws.

            I’ve read a lot of complaints on this forum regarding cars not seeing bikes. Most are undoubtable legitimate. However; there are cases where the collisions occur because the bikes disobey the traffic laws which results in them being in locations where a motorist would reasonable expect them not to be. Passing on the right where there is no bike lane or travel lane is a prime example.

            The Santos case illustrates my point. After the first encounter where Fornshell passed Santos, every encounter was the result of Santos violating the traffic laws. There is simply no where along that section of Cornelle then Lovejoy where Santos could pass Fornshell legally. Except for the intersection of Cornelle and Lovejoy that almost everyone mistakenly believes is Lovejoy entering Cornelle rather than Cornelke entering Lovejoy, there is no where that Fornshell would have been required to signal his intention to turn and it was illegal for Santos to pass there. The bitch about Fornshell braking hard is totally asinine because Santos was going to damn fast and not providing stopping distance.

            Santos got self righteous and angry, then aggressive. By laying his bike down in front of Fornshell’s SUV then moving behind him Santos was creating a situation in which any reasonable driver should feel threatened. The crime stats make it unarguable that most car jacking are committed by pedestrians or bicyclists. Santos was emulating one of the most common tactics of car jackers.

            Now I haven’t seen the police reports yet, but based on the contrast between the sequence of events as it was described in the Oregon in contrast to reports here, it appears that Santos embellished his account to conceal his traffic infractions and make Fornshell’s behavior seem far more aggressive then it was. Santos then exploited his fraudulent account of events to encourage his collegues to conduct a no knock, guns drawn arrest at Forsnshell’s home rather than send him a summons or peacefully arrest him. Given the reputation the Portland police have for being trigger happy, this was intentionally putting Fornshell’s life in danger. Santos is a disgrace to his profession, but not unfortunately to the PDX police.

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          • El Biciclero April 16, 2011 at 9:31 am

            Hey, James–

            I think we’re kind of saying the same thing, but from different contexts. Here is the crux of the matter for me:

            Motorists and cyclists should all follow the law. However, people seem to make a much bigger deal about cyclists breaking the law than they do about motorists breaking the law, when in fact, lawbreaking motorists are thousands, if not millions of times more destructive. Why the focus on a group that (relatively) causes such little harm?

            I definitely don’t think cyclists should be exempt from traffic laws. I follow the law to the same or a greater extent than most of the auto drivers I share the roads with. The problem comes when I see people take a single “incident”–even one where the bicyclist is clearly not at fault, was riding legally, etc.–and launch into a rant about how “those cyclists” “never” obey any traffic laws. This article started a theoretical discussion about a single law, but you used that law (when was the last time a child was run down by a cyclist blowing past a stopped school bus?) to launch a different discussion about a whole list of what appeared to be your personal pet peeves–what does a stopped school bus have to do with cyclists emulating carjackers?

            Yes, it is true, as we learned from the Fornshell-Santos incident that cyclists can easily (way too easily) incite rage and/or fear in motorists by their behavior. It is also true that some laws, e.g., the so-called “mandatory sidepath” law, force cyclists into dangerous positions where they feel like they have to take actions that appear erratic to drivers. Add to that motorist ignorance of how the law is applied to bike riding and I think we would find that much of what many drivers think is “illegal” behavior by cyclists is in fact legal. Here is an example I saw the other day while driving:

            Cyclist was dutifully riding along in the bike line on the right edge of the road, approaching a major intersection with traffic signals and a left-turn-only lane. About 100′ before that intersection, the cyclist suddenly swerved across two lanes of traffic into the left turn lane. He was about five cars ahead of me, but I was surprised because I had been watching him and he suddenly disappeared, then reappeared in the left-turn lane. Now as long as the cyclist signaled, his move was 100% legal, and even if he didn’t signal, it was still legal for him to move into the left turn lane to make a left turn. Why did he wait until the last second to swerve over? Probably because he thought the law required him to stay in the bike lane for as long as possible. This isn’t true, but it is the perception of a lot of motorists, who probably view his actions as “illegal”. If the cyclist would have felt a little more comfortable merging with traffic earlier, he could have made his legal move in a much less surprising way, but the laws as they are understood by most, and the aggressive treatment cyclists sometimes receive for doing such things make that difficult.

            I have many other examples from my own experience, but for now, let’s just agree not to run down any children as they get on the bus.

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          • James Crawford April 16, 2011 at 5:33 pm

            Interesting you cite this example that reminds me of my own bike past. I was approaching intersection of 143 and Cornell and wanted to make a left turn so I moved over to the Left of the lane. (there was only one travel lane back then which dates me). Some sixtiesh guy in a caddy squeezes in next to me then makes a left along side me while screaming that I could have gotten myself killed. The old bastard refused to understand that I had a right to that lane and he should respect that.

            While I keep arguing the point that bikes can be lethal, you are correct that cars and trucks can be and are far more lethal.
            Obviously, massing twenty times as much as a bike makes them more lethal.
            Autos generally travel faster than bikes and Kinetic Energy rises with the square of velocity.
            In general a car has about a hundred times the KE as a bike.
            Another more subtle factor is momentum exchange. The lighter vehicle in a collision experiences far more change in velocity than the heavier vehicle and hence more acceleration.
            Another factor is crush space. Autos have about a meter of crush space ahead of and behind the passengers and about a quarter meter on each side. Crush space absorbs energy and momentum, thus reducing acceleration.
            The bottom line is that bicyclist are far more vulnerable than cars. They need to ride defensively and car drivers need to be educated. However; the proper way to educate them is not to “Santos” them as this just alienates autobdrivers and pisses them off. This especially true when cops severely exaggerate and embellish so obviously to conceal their own screw ups.
            If you think I have a bone to pick with PDX police, you are correct. I’ve been concerned about them ever since Chief Potters political grandstanding on gun control made them paranoid, then hired Uncle Fester to ve their firearms instructor.

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  • Spiffy April 13, 2011 at 3:19 pm

    rolling a stop sign is just that, a stop sign… to pass a bus with flashing red lights AND a stop sign is to run a red light AND roll a stop sign… I’ve never seen anybody post an article on this blog that said that running a red light (no matter where it is) is ok…

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  • Pete April 13, 2011 at 6:03 pm

    I was once pursued and nearly assaulted by a man who right-hooked and nearly hit me. He took offense when I screamed and he replied “I didn’t see you” and I replied back “of course not, you didn’t look!!”. This was Allen and Murray in the Beav and he gunned it across the McMen’s parking lot so I pulled near the eating area to avoid being exposed on the street. He shouted on and on about me not paying taxes and being arrogant and thinking I owned the road and then threatened to beat on me and actually got out of his truck when I chuckled at that (couldn’t help it). I had told him to calm down that it was me who should be mad because he nearly killed me and broke two laws in the process. When he opened the door I pulled my cell phone out and started reciting his license plate out loud (there were lots of people watching this). He jumped back in and screeched off. I suspect he was heading home from a bar.

    Long story short I ended up being his neighbor for over a year. I learned that he’s an elementary school bus driver.

    (I’m not certain if he ever figured out who I was, but when I moved out of town his truck inherited a “Practice Seeing Bicyclists” bumper sticker :).

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  • q`Tzal April 15, 2011 at 8:22 am

    Folow the law or don’t expect the law to protect you.

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