Urban Tribe - Ride with your kids in front.

Photos: Cycling style in Amsterdam

Posted by on June 3rd, 2013 at 3:19 pm

Amsterdam June 1-71

An Amsterdam family dressed to ride.
(Photos © J. Maus/BikePortland

This is part of ongoing coverage of the Green Lane Project/Bikes Belong Netherlands Study Tour.

You’ve probably heard about how in the great European bike cities like Amsterdam people wear “regular clothes” when they ride. I’m not sure what that means to most people; but to me it meant they didn’t were lycra or other special “cycling clothes.” What I didn’t realize is that their clothes are far from “regular”. They ride in some of the most stylish outfits I’ve ever seen on two wheels. People in Copenhagen dressed very well; but the attire in Amsterdam has more panache. I found the styles really amazing. And to see them on people riding bikes was frankly jaw-dropping.

I thought it’d fun to share a selection of images from my Amsterdam photo gallery so you can see what I mean…

Amsterdam June 1-14

Amsterdam the magnificent-1

Amsterdam June 1-16

Amsterdam June 1-37

Amsterdam June 1-15

Amsterdam June 1-38

Amsterdam June 1-42

Amsterdam June 1-51

Amsterdam June 1-25

Amsterdam June 1-3

Amsterdam June 1-72

Amsterdam June 1-73

Amsterdam June 1-89

Amsterdam June 1-92

Amsterdam June 1-98

Amsterdam June 1-100

Amsterdam June 1-108

Amsterdam June 1-102

Amsterdam June 1-130

Amsterdam June 1-134

Amsterdam June 1-136

Amsterdam the magnificent-22

Amsterdam June 1-140

Amsterdam the magnificent-32

Amsterdam June 1-101

Amsterdam June 1-137

If you like these photos, thank Pro Photo Supply (1112 NW 19th Ave) for loaning me some killer equipment. Then go see more of them in our full Amsterdam photo gallery.

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  • Andrew K June 3, 2013 at 3:38 pm

    ok, number 7 cannot be a comfortable way to bike.

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    • Kris June 3, 2013 at 3:52 pm

      Or to do anything else, for that matter.

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    • Amsterdamize June 4, 2013 at 2:17 am

      and you’d know, because you’re a woman who cycles in short dresses on a Dutch bike on occasion as well? :-p

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    • Kristen June 4, 2013 at 10:05 am

      Actually, she has very nice legs and rocks that outfit quite well. On bike or off, I’d bet. What’s not comfortable about it? I would think riding in a suit and tie would be more uncomfortable than that dress and heels.

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  • Holly Erickson June 3, 2013 at 3:47 pm

    Amazing photographs. Thanks for such a fun post! Cheers. Or as they might say in Amsterdam Proost!

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  • Joseph E June 3, 2013 at 3:53 pm

    #4: turning across streetcar tests at an angle, while riding between another pair of tracks, and looks as relaxed as if walking down the hall. I doubt I have seen two men as stylish as these at one time in Portland, in any form of transportation.

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    • Chris I June 3, 2013 at 9:13 pm

      We should just repost #4 whenever someone complains about streetcar tracks here…

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  • Dweendaddy June 3, 2013 at 4:02 pm

    Robert Plant (#25) is in Amsterdam, too?

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    • Carl June 4, 2013 at 7:58 am

      I want that to be the new BikePortland cover image.

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  • Spiffy June 3, 2013 at 4:16 pm

    #4: not at all worried that the intersection is a maze of oddly angled streetcar tracks…

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  • was carless June 3, 2013 at 4:25 pm

    Interesting. When I was in Amsterdam in 2006, and biked for 4 days throughout the city all times of day, I NEVER saw people dress this nicely!

    I think urban populations in general dress 10 times nicer than they used to…

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    • Nick June 3, 2013 at 4:59 pm

      Really?! You must have visited a lot of “coffeeshops” during your stay. Both of my visits to Amsterdam (’06 and ’07) were notable for a well-dressed crowd, on and off the bike.

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      • was carless June 3, 2013 at 11:21 pm

        Perhaps it just didn’t register to me at the time. I WAS backpacking, so theres that. 😛

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        • Nick June 4, 2013 at 4:27 pm

          Ah. Yes. There is that.

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  • anon June 3, 2013 at 5:01 pm

    I don’t understand why people knock lycra and clothes that are specifically designed to make cycling more comfortable. Riding in regular clothes is so sweaty and uncomfortable!

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    • younggods June 3, 2013 at 5:52 pm

      Sure it’s sweaty if you’re race commuting like so many do. If you’re just casually biking to your destination, it’s no big whoop.

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      • Yuri Nashun June 3, 2013 at 7:06 pm

        I ride several miles each way…I work in an office and I doubt my co-workers would be too appreciative of how I smell in the morning if I didn’t shower and change. “Regular” clothes do not cut it for all of us. It has nothing to do with trying to race to work. Its simply more functional and comfortable clothing for cycling. Great for those folks who are closer to where they want to go and can wear whatever they want.

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        • 9watts June 3, 2013 at 10:37 pm

          “I doubt my co-workers would be too appreciative of how I smell in the morning if I didn’t shower and change.”

          A common misperception by those who shower constantly is what would happen (chemically, socially) if they didn’t. Sweat doesn’t smell. The bacteria in sweat break it down and that takes time. I guarantee that all those stylish people don’t take off all their stylish clothes as soon as they get to their destination so then can shower.

          See a prior discussion of this very topic:

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          • Red Five June 4, 2013 at 6:41 am

            I think I agree with Yuri on this one. Clearly many of those riders in Copenholland or where ever are not riding that far. Geeze look at the foot wear on some of them. We are so much more spread out here and we have hills. And too many times my senses have been assaulted by some Portlander who thought their sweat didn’t stink. Nothing like a little BO before a meal.

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            • 9watts June 4, 2013 at 7:50 am

              “are not riding that far.”

              so it is a matter of distance, eh? How do we know this? This reminds me of the trope common in conversations in this country that purports to explain why Europeans have much smaller fridges–because they live close to the store and shop every day. Well, that may be true for some, but it isn’t the whole explanation by a long shot. What I’ve observed is that they don’t put a thousand condiments in the fridges that we do; have pantries; and generally never had the generations of experience having large fridges begging to be filled with…something.

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              • Kristen June 4, 2013 at 10:11 am

                Regardless of how far or how many hills…. some of us sweat at the drop of a hat, also regardless of our fitness level. I’ve tried not showering after riding to work and it just doesn’t work for me. So yeah, I wear “special bike clothing” and shower/change when I get to work. I’m glad other people can ride to work in their regular clothes.

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              • El Biciclero June 6, 2013 at 9:39 am

                When someone mentions distance, the hidden implication is d=rt: distance = rate * time. In order to cover distance in an acceptable amount of time (whatever that may be) the only variable one can control is rate. If I had to ride my 12+ miles over the west hills in the morning without getting sweaty and having my “regular clothes” start clinging and chafing, it would take a lot longer than the hour it currently does.

                If I have an errand to run at lunch time, I’m certainly not going to go change into my “bike stuff” to coast a few blocks around town (sometimes, I don’t even put my helmet on -gasp!-). But when it’s time to go home, I’ve got people waiting for me there and I’m not going to dilly-dally.

                Some of us don’t want to drive, but also don’t want to spend half a workday just getting to work. I don’t try to convince people they’d be happier if they just dressed in spandex and rode up and down hills all day, why do some folks seem to insist that slow, upright, and in “regular clothes” is the “correct” way to ride?

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          • spare_wheel June 4, 2013 at 11:16 am

            the average cycling commute in the netherlands is ~1.34 miles one way (Centraal Bureau voor de Statistiek, 2008). obviously dense cities, such as, amsterdam would have far shorter average distances.

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        • Koula from Bike Jax June 6, 2013 at 8:30 am

          I hear ya! My commute is 16 miles each way, and I’ve read that most people in Copenhagen commute around 1-2 miles max.

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    • gutterbunny June 3, 2013 at 6:31 pm

      To quote the legandary Bill the Cat —– “Phumphttttttttt!!!!!!”

      They’re designed to be more comoftable when trying to a triathalon, or when commuting at a 20mph clip, but a leasurely 10-12 mph ride normal clothes are just fine. The big bike cities of Europe people bike at a slower pace and apparently really enjoy the commute (go figure). They’re typically not trying to get to “where ever” as fast as they can get there in a car like most American commuters. Becasue you know we all got better things to do than lose 5 miutes on a trip like watching “Americas Got Tallent” or other such garbage.

      And the difference in time between the two isn’t all that great when you factor in lights and such on rides of 5 or 6 miles or so.

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      • spare_wheel June 4, 2013 at 8:09 am

        It always amuses me when the slow bike crowd assumes that I ride fast because I am in a “hurry”. I really, really, really enjoy riding fast.

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      • El Biciclero June 6, 2013 at 9:49 am

        Well, some of us commute at a 20mph clip over lightly-traveled roads for a distance greater than 10 miles. The difference between 10mph and even just 15 over that distance is at least 20 minutes.

        Why argue over differences in style? Let everyone ride/commute in the way that works for them. If you have a flat, 6-mile commute that you don’t mind taking an hour to do, then by ALL means wear a suit and coast to work. If I have a 12-15-mile commute over the hills that I also like to finish in an hour, I’m going to wear what works for riding fast, and I’ll dry off when I get there.

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    • NF June 3, 2013 at 7:57 pm

      I know! Those people all look so uncomfortable!

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    • was carless June 3, 2013 at 11:16 pm

      Sweating is really only an issue during summer – proper clothes & layering can pretty much eliminate most issues of sweating.

      For instance, up until a month ago I was still seeing cyclists wearing full rain gear even when the temps were in the high-60s and there were no clouds. I was wearing a t-shirt and shorts or jeans – I can’t imagine what kind of sweat and smells were cooking inside of those plastic bags. Ick.

      I typically just throw on a collared shirt when I get to my destination and unroll my pants sleeve, and I look quite presentable to go to business meetings. Taking a shower every morning would be a huge waste of time – and is generally quite unnecessary.

      FWIW, I bike year-round, except for Christmas & New Years. I get Christmas off.

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      • Rachel June 4, 2013 at 12:16 am

        Here in Copenhagen most people use weather apps on their smartphones to get a fairly good hourly prediction of the day’s weather. Then you know whether to wear or carry rain gear, and when you might need it. Having two sets of rain pants/jackets too – one at the office, one at home – plus a bag and bike that can carry the important weather-related accessories (scarves year-round, gloves and hat in autumn/winter) are also all very important in being prepared but at the same time avoiding wearing stuff when not necessary. I cycle every day all year too, even in -10C and snow during the winter.

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      • spare_wheel June 4, 2013 at 7:56 am

        “Sweating is really only an issue during summer”

        Generalize much? I think most of the people Jonathan photographed would be walking their bikes up the hills I climb 6-7 days a week.

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      • Kristen June 4, 2013 at 10:13 am

        Not true– I sweat in the depths of winter almost as much as I sweat in the height of summer. One’s physiology has as much to do with sweating as what one is doing or wearing.

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  • Paul in the 'couve June 3, 2013 at 6:56 pm

    Great pics and great style. I would love to experience, but even better would be having more of that culture here.

    My 2cents on the social issue in USA and PDX / Vancouver, I will try to talk to folks when I pass them (or rarely when the pass me 🙂 ) but people seem to be surprised that I’d talk to them. Honestly, on the streets bike culture here strikes me as almost impenetrable. Locking up bikes, riding, seeing people at coffee shops I very rarely get any sense that people feel any camaraderie for fellow cyclists. I’d say it is the same in NYC. I haven’t ridden in Seattle in years, and when I did there were so few cyclists, but even then messengers were their own group, and roadies were their own group and people weren’t friendly. When I ride in Spokane and when I lived in Kennewick people on bikes seemed to have solidarity with other riders regardless of bike type. Missoula and Bozeman MT are both just way friendlier all the way around and cycling community didn’t seem more or less gregarious than the rest of the folks, but I often fell in and road with people and met people while out riding in those places. Of course both college towns.

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    • Anne Hawley
      Anne Hawley June 3, 2013 at 7:27 pm

      Based on these pictures and what I’ve read from Mikael Colville-Andersen, the social interactions we see in the European cities is specifically *not* any sort of bike solidarity. Copenhagenize (pretty sure) said once that Danish people on bikes don’t smile and wave at other people on bikes just ’cause they’re on bikes. He thought that was peculiarly American and a symptom of being a tiny minority.

      In the photos above, It’s people on bikes interacting with people they *know*, who just happen to also be on bikes. The odds of that happening are so much better when everyone you know already rides around on a bike.

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    • was carless June 3, 2013 at 11:25 pm

      Err, yeah, I would be surprised if someone tried to talk to me while riding also, unless it was for directions or to take note of something “oh wow, look at that spectacular car accident in front of us!” etc..

      That is normal for big cities.

      Organized group rides are a totally different thing – you should partake in pedalpalooza, lots of opportunity for making friends and engaging with people on those!

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  • Ben Moore June 3, 2013 at 8:59 pm

    Thanks, Jonathan. These Eruo series reports and pics are really doing a lot to inspire us and help improve the growing bike culture here in the states from the ground up.
    The Dutch bikes look cool with the tall quill stems with near zero length stems and the steep rake to the head tubes.

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  • Velograteful June 3, 2013 at 10:53 pm

    Great photos. Wait for the Hxxxxx debate…..

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  • Chris I June 4, 2013 at 7:50 am

    I would like to see this same type of picture set on a rainy day. Bike-specific clothing has some advantages; wet weather riding being one of them.

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  • Banjo!!!! June 4, 2013 at 8:27 am

    I looked hard and didn’t see a single derailleur in these shots, except possibly on the folder in #3. Also, rim brakes seem to be less common. That’s my kind of style…

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  • John Liu
    John Liu June 4, 2013 at 9:49 am

    I love the relaxed urban style of these riders. On the other hand, I think most of their bikes look like junkers . . . but with bike theft as endemic as it is there, I would be riding a beater too. Derailleurs, pfft, who needs them in a Completely Flat City.

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    • William Bendsen June 14, 2013 at 1:27 pm

      On the other hand – the guy in pic 9, I’m pretty sure that’s a 40€ sögreni bell.

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  • JRB June 4, 2013 at 12:20 pm

    Ho hum, another photo essay and another debate about appropriate bike clothing and appropriate bikes. I do love these essays, and if people want to compliment the style of the riders, rock on. I will continue to ride in bike clothing on my 27 gear touring bike because it works for where, when and how I ride, as does the short dress and high heels for #7 or whatever any of the riders depicted in Jonathan’s essay are wearing and riding.

    Vive le difference!

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  • Mike June 4, 2013 at 12:42 pm

    Having lived in Amsterdam and owned both a dutch bike and a bakfiets for the kids, it is different regarding clothing.
    1. The Dutch really do dress snazzy. In PDX, not so much.
    2. Riding there on a dutch bike with no gears or maybe 3 with an internal hub…these bikes are designed for the flat city short riding at slow speeds. Helmets not necessary. If it rains, you ride with an umbrella up one handed, or some wear a $10 rain suit from the drug store. Kids have a cover over the box. In snow, you wear a scarf, gloves and a hat. So do kids. I got to ride with a kid on the back seat and one on a seat in front of me between the handlebars every day to their school. It’s one of my favorite memories of fatherhood.
    3. I ride a lot in PDX now. Ride to work 2-3x/week, and go cycling for thousands of miles outside town every year. I never wear work clothes when riding because I have hills. Big hills, which I love to ride up. I never got much fitness biking in Amsterdam. It’s kind of impossible actually. Here I’m super fit, even my commute gets me 100’s of calories of burn.

    They are different. In parts of PDX, it’s very possible to do it Dutch but in others it is not. No reason to argue about it. What we need is the A, B, C approach mentioned by JM in the Utrecht post to address the different types of bike infrastructure needed in different settings. Stop the arguments about separated or not or what to wear. We have an ok start on the core of our city, but it still stinks compared to the Dutch. We have a winner in our “bikeways” around town but lack the major separated pathways needed for type C roads. Those are what everyone in Amsterdam knew and used to get around, they are the backbone and the core reason biking works. Bikelanes are useless on these roads. Bikeways are great for type A and maybe some type B applications. Cycling outside town is not biking as we are talking here and can be made a lower priority for now I think.

    We need separated bike tracks on 6 major crisscrosses across town, then everything else will fall in place. I’m fine with a tax to get that done.

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    • spare_wheel June 6, 2013 at 3:51 pm

      “Stop the arguments about separated”
      “Bikelanes are useless on these roads.”

      And yet here you are…arguing.

      A city club commission of prominent cycling advocates just advocated removal of cycling infrastructure and you want us to stop arguing?

      Multiple european studies show that physically-separated are more dangerous than wide buffered bike lanes. Moreover, the German experience shows that installation of buffered bike lanes and removal of cycle tracks can promote massive increases in mode share. I want buffered bike lanes on the routes cyclists use today, not cycle tracks 20 years from now.

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      • ZGNW July 18, 2013 at 2:09 am

        What’s your German bike experience, spare_wheel? I see you’re referencing the European region a lot in your comments. We’d love to have you join us!

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  • Mike June 4, 2013 at 12:47 pm

    Here is a little video we made during our time there…some great bicycle footage in there. Enjoy!

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  • Mike June 4, 2013 at 12:47 pm
  • PorterStout June 4, 2013 at 12:59 pm

    Awesome bikes, and a lot of them look vintage though that might be just the style. Did anyone else notice there isn’t a dropped-bar among them, visible anywhere in any of the photographs? It’s definitely a different culture.

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  • Ted Buehler June 4, 2013 at 2:28 pm

    Jonathan —

    I note that 14, 19 and 24 are the only ones panned with a blurred background — do Amsterdamers ride slower than bicyclists in the other cities where you’ve done photoshoots?

    Great photos, thanks!

    Ted Buehler

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  • marian June 4, 2013 at 3:56 pm

    ha ha love it! reminds me of when i had to deliver a cake for the bakery i worked for, wearing a maxi skirt, riding my bike with one hand, holding the giant box.

    and when i was in high school, kids from small towns, 10 miles away rode their bikes to school. no lycra, no helmet. and no the kids did not smell.

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  • Matt June 5, 2013 at 2:10 pm

    No one in spandex! Over there, biking is just another way to get around. Here in Portland, it feels like a subculture with an entry fee–spandex and a fancy drop bar roadbike. I know this isn’t entirely true, but it sure feels that way…

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    • spare_wheel June 6, 2013 at 3:21 pm

      What you call a “subculture” I call commuting ~10 miles up hills all year round.

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  • Jennifer June 5, 2013 at 11:24 pm

    I rode home from the BTA Alice awards in a dress with a cut similar to that of number 7 (although i did swap out my shoes.). The previous posters are correct in that it was not particularly comfortable, but it beat changing clothes again.

    Point is, it is certainly possible. A dressy event doesn’t mean you can’t bike!

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  • Matt June 6, 2013 at 5:26 pm

    Good distinction between commutting and exercise.

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  • kelly June 10, 2013 at 4:21 pm

    what do they do when it’s raining? rains there a lot…they still wear fancy heels then?

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  • Arjen June 11, 2013 at 11:57 pm

    This is such a funny discussion from a Dutch perspective 🙂

    To understand this, just picture the Dutch as being pedestrians with a bike. The Dutch only walk when they didn’t bring their bike. Those people in the pictures probably aren’t commuting at all, but are on their way to a shop, a pub, their friends, a party, school, whatever. Just moving around the city. Would you dress up everytime you got outside to run an errand? I don’t think so.

    Sure, for my 10 mi commute I dress up too and wash when I arrive. But for all the other daily trips? no way Jose.

    What do you do when it rains? You use an umbrella or put on a raincoat.

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