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Guest article: Why I perservere on the west side’s mean streets

Posted by on February 21st, 2017 at 9:47 am

Ride Along with Ali Reis-36

(Photo: J. Maus/BikePortland)

[Note: This article is by BikePortland subscriber and Beaverton resident Naomi Fast. Naomi’s perspective is formed in part by the fact that she doesn’t own a car and she’s lived and worked in both Portland and Beaverton.]

In my first subscriber post, I wrote about Beaverton, where I moved in 2013 after a decade in Portland. It occurs to me a few people might wonder how I live without a car in the suburbs. Sometimes it’s not easy! But living without a car is not all that rare, and bike commuting infrastructure is becoming a more vocal priority as Washington County looks to the future.

But challenges in the here-and-now are plentiful, and sometimes I feel frustrated.

For example: Recently, I was riding in dangerous gravel in the SW Murray Blvd bike lane near the Nike Woods, and had to move into the main traffic lane at times to avoid skidding. At the red light, a woman holding her phone in one hand, deep in conversation, drove up on my left. I motioned her to roll down her window. I let her know I was needing to take the lane at times, so please keep an eye out for me! She said she’d drive more to her left to give me room, so that was nice.

I actually wasn’t yelling at her; I was breathless from biking hard next to a bus, and trying to talk loud enough to be heard over the roar of motors. Talk about feeling misunderstood!

A different morning on southbound Murray, a contractor was setting up a new road work area, and though there was a “Bikes on Roadway” sign posted, she wasn’t preparing a safe way for bikes to travel next to the 45 MPH cars. When I asked her if she would, she said she didn’t come out there to be yelled at. I actually wasn’t yelling at her; I was breathless from biking hard next to a bus, and trying to talk loud enough to be heard over the roar of motors. Talk about feeling misunderstood! Anyway, then she said, “You’re on your own.” Wow! Although the construction trucks at that spot belong to K&E Excavating, she must not have been with their crew because they have a review on their website stating: “always very attentive to the requests that are made, either good or bad.” An attentive crew hopefully doesn’t create situations where drivers are violating close passing laws.

Sometimes we who bike instead of drive the suburbs do feel “on our own.” It must be nicer to be a driver and feel safely attended to by transportation departments doing things like pouring gravel to keep car users moving in ice storms, even though that same gravel puts the lives of people on bike in peril for weeks.

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Still, I have more reasons to stay on a bicycle than I do to go back to car ownership. I thought I’d share a few here. None of these reasons are what made me start bike commuting; they’re the benefits and things I fell in love with as I’ve biked, going on 12 years:

1. Affordability. For years I’ve saved probably an average of $500 per month by biking and using transit.

2. A chance to be outdoors every day. I love being close to the soil, trees, water, and sun, and there are countless times I’ve stopped to take a photograph of something exquisitely beautiful. It’s a huge bonus that my mode is so gentle on that beauty, and preserves it for the next generation and my next ride.

I discovered this beautiful statue off the side of the road the other day.

3. Biking engages all the senses. On the flip side, car rides put me too much “in my head.” I used to love road trips in cars. These days, I find sitting in a car for hours uncomfortable and boring. Auto makers know driving is boring, and are always installing the latest entertainment systems, including wireless internet, even though a car is a dangerous machine requiring focus and patience to operate.

4. Civic and community contribution. I don’t like that cars aren’t accessible to everyone, or that our transportation system values some lives over others. Biking has opened my eyes to the social injustices that arise from car dependency. And it feels good to be doing something tangible in protest of oil companies tearing up communities over oil. Cars are arguably the most direct and voracious daily consumers of oil; I’m happy to be divested of that consumer product, not to mention ready to roll should the big carbon bubble pop.

5. Efficiency. A trip to the grocery store by bike means I can check “Work out” and “Get groceries” off my daily to-do list in one fell swoop. Driving is time consuming, and worse, can add stress and complications to trips, long or short. Once, while visiting Berkeley as a much less experienced driver—especially around multi-modal infrastructure—I passed a person at a mid-street crosswalk. They saw I wasn’t stopping, and waited till I went by even though they had the right of way. A passerby flipped me off on their behalf, and I’m glad he did. That’s what cued me I’d done something wrong. I wasn’t speeding or distracted, but I was stressed by my unfamiliarity with Berkeley driving. If I’d later met the person I’d driven past, I’d have apologized, and still wish I could. I’d also say: Guess what, now I’m at the crosswalk on foot most of the time. I get it now!

6. Biking is endlessly interesting. I encounter all kinds of people on transit and while biking. Not all encounters are good ones, but lots are, and almost all are interesting. I’ve learned a lot about myself on the bike. Like yoga, it can be hard. When frustrations arise, sometimes the only thing to do is keep breathing, and breathe through the discomfort. I never learned that in a car. I’m learning it now. The encounters that bring out the worst in me—aspects of myself that are human nature but aren’t the most sophisticated way to solve conflicts—are those that involve drivers coming carelessly close to me with their cars. It’s instinctive to self-protect, and my fight or flight impulse is instantly activated when drivers come too close and cause me to feel my life’s been threatened. If drivers could understand this, I bet most would feel awful and would give people on foot and bike more space.

I have a tale that perfectly illustrates that last point about how interesting bike encounters can be. I’ll share that story in my next post.

— by Naomi Fast. Follower her activism and adventures in Beaverton via @_The_Clearing on Twitter

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62 Comments
  • BradWagon February 21, 2017 at 11:04 am

    Have done the Murray section past Nike woods a time or two now. Exceptionally bad spot for some reason, also the spot it seems cars feel comfortable with going faster than usual.

    Whether it be for road construction or snow clearing a much safer option would be to prioritize one vehicle lane and one ped/bike lane rather than 2 auto lanes and no bike/ped options. The current construction on Murray is a great example of prioritizing people in cars with 2 lanes while peds literally walk on gravel and dirt through a construction zone. Unacceptable. Peds/bikes often pay the price while improvements mostly aimed at drivers are being done.

    (Tangent, but: Another favorite of mine is a sign near a car delearship on NB Murray approaching Farmington (or TV highway, can’t recall) that warns bikes of the driveway. Needs to be turned 90 degrees and have “Driveway” replaced with “Bikelane”.)

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    • BradWagon February 21, 2017 at 11:07 am

      There is something exceptionally cruel about making pedestrians walk on dirt while surrounded by car dealerships. It’s almost as if the world wants people to drive… /S.

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    • Naomi Fast February 21, 2017 at 10:24 pm

      Oh! Yes, I know that sign. I will say this for NB Murray right around there: at least on that side there’s been that temporary asphalt path for people to walk/bike during construction. If only I was always going north.

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    • wsbob February 22, 2017 at 1:03 am

      Fact of the matter is that easily on a travel mode percentage basis, motor vehicle traffic, likely around 80 percent, is a major priority…by need, a higher priority than provision of separated paved road area for walking and biking. First time in a long time, a couple days ago, I had to drive southbound on Murray, south of TV Highway. Even with the two main lanes in each direction, traffic was still backed up midday, in part due to construction work.

      Use of the main lanes for riding, is very manageable, when traffic is congested, bringing speeds down to 10 or 15 mph…though personally, I likely would plot out a route on quieter north-south streets, unless of course, I had business specifically along that section of Murray. As an alternative north-south route to Murray, Hocken over to and out Hall, might work well for a lot of people biking.

      The section of Murray between TV Hwy and Farmington is probably going to get a full width bike lane on its west side, where formerly there was only the asphalt MUP. Farmington is getting continuous bike lanes with the construction work going on there. Walker Road to either side of 170th, most likely is getting bike lanes too…that particular construction has been going on for many months already…and the construction been annoying to contend with in using the road for biking, but seems likely to be worth it once the work is done.

      I’d like to see more people riding, people that aren’t really cyclists, but I think Beaverton has a long, long way to go before it has much in the way of bike specific infrastructure for this type person, to support biking other than the recreational type.

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      • Naomi Fast February 22, 2017 at 7:30 am

        “I’d like to see more people riding, people that aren’t really cyclists”

        Sounds like what you’re indicating, wsbob, is that when I’m biking Murray, for business on that street or whatever my reason, your car might be one of the ones I’m seeing along there. But I’m curious: if Murray was kept in better biking shape during construction & ice storms, would you still be biking it along with BradWagon & me, and many others? If you don’t drive all that often, can you substitute your biking with the bus instead of your car? I’m especially curious what was it about your recent trip that made it a “had to drive” situation. Maybe the answer to why you’re not seeing “more people riding,” can be found in your own reasons why you choose to drive instead of bike. Please help me solve this mystery! 🙂

        The priority will keep being what the priority is given to. A question I’d pose alongside Kyle’s great question below is: Who determines & reinforces priorities in this area?

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        • Kyle Banerjee February 22, 2017 at 9:46 am

          I think we all do, though legacy priorities and inertia play a large role. While I rode in this morning, I thought about factors that keep people off their bikes.

          One is that cycling is still viewed as an activity outside the norm. Whenever anyone introduces me to someone else in a professional setting, the first thing they say about me concerns my riding. Everyone else gets described in terms of their position or responsibilities. For my entire life — even in bicycle friendly Portland — I am “that guy,” the one who does the crazy things no one dares. My friends, family, and coworkers all see me this way, but what I do is much easier than they imagine. Most of them could do what I do, but convincing them to try is difficult.

          The other barrier is that I don’t believe people really understand how much their cars cost or how little convenience they provide. I own a car and calculated the cost of insurance alone is $20 for every trip even with my accident free discount. Factor in gas, maintenance, etc, before we even add in stuff financed by taxes and we’re talking some serious change. I think if people understood how much they actually pay, they would be more interested in alternatives.

          It is important to understand what people are trying to accomplish with their cars but the emotional reasons are important too. If we want more people choosing alternate ways to get around, both must be addressed.

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        • wsbob February 22, 2017 at 10:38 am

          I shouldn’t be taking the time to write right now…need to get going…so I’ll just say that I avoid Murray in general if at all possible…whether I’m driving or biking. It’s a terribly busy road, heavily used with motor vehicles. Not a pleasant road to ride on at all for me. Traffic was jammed up the other day about noon, in part due to the construction…but even without construction, it for a long time has been a road heavily used with motor vehicles.

          Keep riding…you’ve got a good, upbeat attitude about biking, and I like to think that can be very helpful to persuading other people to give it a try.

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      • Pete February 22, 2017 at 9:34 pm

        “The section of Murray between TV Hwy and Farmington is probably going to get a full width bike lane on its west side, where formerly there was only the asphalt MUP. ”

        Is this really true? My understanding is that the city’s right-of-way is not wide enough to move the sidewalk over, and St. Mary’s will not grant to the city the width of land it needs to create a contiguous bike lane next to the sidewalk there.

        Say it isn’t so – certainly appears that way from what must be a recent image:
        https://goo.gl/maps/RZHt56u7KbG2

        Rest in peace little buddy – I remember riding by shortly after you were hit. 🙁
        http://www.oregonlive.com/news/index.ssf/2009/04/parents_win_settlement_in_bicy.html
        It’s with mixed feelings to see this “Austin Miller Memorial Bike Lane” put in. I can tell you firsthand that Beaverton tried to get this fixed for many, many years with repeated failure.

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      • wsbob February 22, 2017 at 10:57 pm

        ” Pete February 22, 2017 at 9:34 pm

        “The section of Murray between TV Hwy and Farmington is probably going to get a full width bike lane on its west side, where formerly there was only the asphalt MUP. ”

        Is this really true? My understanding is that the city’s right-of-way is not wide enough to move the sidewalk over, and St. Mary’s will not grant to the city the width of land it needs to create a contiguous bike lane next to the sidewalk there. …” pete

        I’m just guessing, based on what I saw driving southbound on Murray last Monday, that this is what’s happening. Sorry if it’s not true. In a quick glimpse, it looked like the entire length of the west side of the road edge was scraped clear, down to the dirt, extending further west, 10′ or so. The old asphalt MUP is gone. Logically, it would seem to me that adding bike lanes and a new sidewalk would be the reason for that work. To be certain, I might try dig up the project plans on the county or city website, whichever it is, tomorrow.

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      • wsbob February 22, 2017 at 11:48 pm

        “…I’m especially curious what was it about your recent trip that made it a “had to drive” situation. …” naomi fast

        Kind of covered the answer to the question in another, earlier post tonight, but the reason I was driving on Monday, was because I had to pick up and bring home some refrigerated goods….reser’s outlet store on Jenkins, I recommend it….and then drive from there a short distance away to pick up and chauffeur my mom over to costco for a walk-a-round, get groceries, free samples, etc. She’s a trooper, walks with some difficulty, but is way past her bike riding days.

        Ordinarily, if I’m visiting my parents, and I don’t have stuff to haul home, I ride there from Central Beaverton. I can pick a time to ride when it’s usually not too cold or wet. I prefer the ride, over driving. I could take light rail. It’s a ten minute walk from both homes. More expensive than biking, or driving, since I already have a motor vehicle. Not nearly as convenient, and often not nearly as comfortable as driving.

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      • wsbob February 23, 2017 at 11:00 am

        pete…I web searched for county sites that would say whether the west side of Murray between TV Hwy and Farmington would get a bike lane…nothing definitive. Looks like a direct contact may be the only way to get an answer. The pic you posted a link for is July 2016. I might ride over and take another look.

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      • Pete February 23, 2017 at 6:57 pm

        wsbob, I have a friend who’s a city engineer in Beaverton so I’ll reach out and post back here if he can verify our assumptions.

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      • wsbob February 23, 2017 at 10:22 pm

        “…The priority will keep being what the priority is given to. A question I’d pose alongside Kyle’s great question below is: Who determines & reinforces priorities in this area? …” naomi fast

        Drawing from my own subjective theories, I feel the reasons for prioritization of travel infrastructure are to some extent multi-faceted and complex, but bottom line: city leaders, if they want the operating funds (from taxpayers, state and federal government), have got to prioritize movement of motor vehicle traffic, above all other modes. Beaverton is a nice, fairly progressive city. I know this having lived here a long time and seen a lot of the changes that have taken place. The city and its residents very much are interested in Beaverton being a livable city, so the city is committed to providing bike lanes.

        Bike lanes as serious travel infrastructure, at this point, evidenced by what the city and county (like portland, lots of county roads within city limits.) apparently feels able to provide, are of a priority somewhat corresponding to the percent of road users that bike…arguably more, actually…there’s now lots of bike lanes around, but still not that many people riding.

        It’s discouraging to me…I try to not let it get me down…how intimidated and afraid it seems so many people are about riding in or next to motor vehicle traffic. I’ve ridden for awhile, and though I’m not a hotshot racer type, I can handle myself well enough in traffic as needed…but I think so many people wouldn’t ride into the kind of traffic situations that around the city, are routine. They’d maybe ride if the city had a serious, functional network of so called ‘protected bike lanes’ or more bike infrastructure of a practical version of the recreational nature that characterizes the Westside Trail (I feel the network of narrow, back alley asphalt paved bike trails Beaverton has, south of Allen, west of Hall, doesn’t fill this bill.).

        For the priority of more practical for travel bike infrastructure to be boosted in Beaverton, more ordinary type people, rather than dyed in the wool cyclist types…are needed to respond to their anxieties about riding in traffic, and be determined to take advantage of the great riding opportunities the city has, despite the challenges the traffic can pose to riding. Those people need to take some initiative. The city does a fair bit to help, but it would probably do more, if more people expressed a need and desire for help from the city with better biking infrastructure.

        A couple more mentions:

        The city does a nice, one time a year thing with Bike Beaverton…a Sunday, family event, on quiet streets open to motor vehicle traffic, modest but upbeat participation by all. The city could take a huge step in kindling wider interest in biking, by offering more of those events during other seasons of the year, even in Oregon’s signature inclement late fall, winter, and early spring seasons.

        I personally know, having met and talked with the guy that teaches it to bike cops, that if ordinary people interested at getting better at riding in traffic, were interested in professional bike in traffic instruction, the city might consider offering it. Maybe for very little money, or no charge at all. If there were, I don’t know…ten to twenty people that thought such a course could work for them, the visual result alone, of that many more people riding confidently and effectively in traffic could possibly help out biking in the city, quite a lot.

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      • Pete February 24, 2017 at 9:28 am

        It’s Washington County, not Beaverton, and has apparently been in planning for a while:
        http://www.co.washington.or.us/LUT/TransportationProjects/farmington-murray-to-hocken-project.cfm?page=About

        http://www.co.washington.or.us/LUT/TransportationProjects/upload/WAS-24-9-Strip-Map-Revised.pdf

        To quote my friend (who’s a Murray Blvd cyclist himself): “Much thanks goes to Washington County MSTIP project professional staff and leadership for their generosity.” He also goes on to say, “Someone might note that the Rail Road Crossing that is close to the Murray/TV Hwy intersection is a bit narrow for bike travelway purposes (both sides)…. Reconfiguration of a rail road crossing at this location is unbelievably expensive.”

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    • wsbob February 24, 2017 at 1:24 pm

      Pete February 24, 2017 at 9:28 am

      pete…thanks for checking. The pdf strip aerial photo of Murray, unfortunately doesn’t extend north to TV Hwy, though I can understand that widening the RR crossing for bike lanes across the railroad tracks would be expensive…and I’ve heard that RR’s in this area, are resistant to public desire to allow RR right of way for public use. If there were continuous bike lanes just south of the RR tracks on the west side of Murray for the entire block between TV Highway and Farmington, I think that would definitely be an improvement for biking.

      Can’t really tell for sure from the photo map supplied. Red lines might be bike lanes?…picture only shows St Mary’s property, about just south of the main building driveway, I think. So I’m not certain yet, whether, except for the RR crossing, there will be continuous bike lanes on the west side of Murray between TV Highway and Farmington.

      It’s great to see the crews working so diligently on Farmington. Not that I intend to ride it much, if at all…alternative routes are my preference…but the option of continuous bike lanes on that very busy road will help those that need them.

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  • rick February 21, 2017 at 11:10 am

    It can be very difficult to find the safe routes on the westside. Many paper street trails are poorly maintained. These public works / transportation department-owned right-of-way property is viewed by some government officials as just waiting for asphalt and racing minivans in Washington County. On the other hand, Portland has been listening and building what people want on SW 19th Ave lately.

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  • Glenn February 21, 2017 at 11:17 am

    I love these types of post..gets me motivated to ride more (dam you couch and netflix)
    For these really bad road months need to get away from the skinny tires bikes and more to some 2″+ tires w/knobby’s & some finders…then unimproved roads get fun…

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  • Kyle Banerjee February 21, 2017 at 11:17 am

    Excellent article — looking forward to your next post.

    What do you see as the biggest challenge facing cycling in the area and where would you like to see energy focused most both in terms of what and where?

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    • Naomi Fast February 21, 2017 at 9:33 pm

      Thanks, Kyle! This is such a well-put question. I think there are a few ways it could be answered; my approach at the moment is to highlight three areas:

      One challenge is in how bikes are seen: As vehicles of transportation, needing direct routes from homes to places of business? Or only as vehicles of sport and recreation, served fine by Washington County’s many trails?

      Another (huge) challenge is the existing infrastructure itself, which encourages many residents to assume or believe they have no choice but to drive a car—even if they shouldn’t drive, can’t drive, or aren’t licensed to drive. Beaverton is a Welcoming City, but some of the population that policy’s meant to serve & protect cannot obtain a drivers license due to state law (ORS 807.021 I think it is). And there are many other non-drivers for whom car-centric infrastructure is unfriendly on many levels.

      Where I’d like to see energy focused is around the challenge of fear. People have a lot of fears about going car-light or car-free as individuals & maybe collectively as well. City & county government may not be able to address those fears. If elected officials only drive, they’re likely living with the exact same fears. It may or may not be surprising that even on the Beaverton Bicycle Advisory Committee, only about a third of members use bikes as transportation.

      I know those fears, because I used to drive a ’90s Thunderbird with a V8 engine, & it took me a few years of bike commuting before I could emotionally release it (even though I didn’t want to drive it much anymore). There were simple answers for all my fears. For example:

      Fear: What if I lose all my independence & freedom??
      Answer: Bike commute for a decade and if you have not found you gained freedom, I’ll buy you a tank of gas. Just kidding! Lunch, I’ll buy you lunch. That’s tastier.

      Fear: What if I have to get somewhere fast??
      Answer: If a car’s truly faster, take a taxi. If needing to be somewhere speedily is a frequent need, a change in your relationship with time could help. I had to do that!

      Fear: What if there’s a medical emergency??
      Answer: Call 911.

      Fear: How can I buy this great antique dresser I found or go to the beach on a whim??
      Answer: Zipcar, Ziptruck. Did you know the Wave goes to the beach?

      Fear: What if I’m too tired to bike somewhere??
      Answer: Listen to your body. It may be too tired to drive well, too. Give it rest & think of eating & drinking water as a gift you give to your muscles. And so on.

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      • wsbob February 22, 2017 at 1:15 am

        “…Beaverton is a Welcoming City, but some of the population that policy’s meant to serve & protect cannot obtain a drivers license due to state law (ORS 807.021 I think it is). …” naomi fast

        I could guess what you’re referring to, but maybe it would be better if you explained what you mean by this. Here’s a link to the text for that statute:

        https://www.oregonlaws.org/ors/807.021

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      • Naomi Fast February 23, 2017 at 5:17 pm

        Sure, wsbob; maybe I can explain using a couple of made-up scenarios. I hope you’ll indulge me using your handle in these examples!

        Pretend I’m “the powers that be.”

        I come to your house with some officers & say, “Are you wsbob?” and you say, yes, & I say, “We’re here on a tip you’ve been cleaning up that rusty bicycle hanging in your garage. We really, really hope you weren’t thinking of riding it around town. Super illegal! We can prove you’re an American citizen, and for Americans, cars are the legal form of transportation. That’s why there are so many car ads on TV during the news; just a constant little reminder for you citizens. Uhhh, hold on—what’s this bike helmet here? And this rain jacket? That’s it, you’re coming with us.”

        I know, that one’s sort of implausible & it’s more of a warm up anyway…

        New scene. I’ll still play the Powers That Be. This time you’re not an American citizen, but you do live & work here. You come up to me & say, “Hey, so, apparently in America I have to use a car to get places. I was riding the bus but I guess you just cut the bus line where I live. I have a job to go to and I also need to get my mother to the doctor & grocery store once a week, so can I please have a driver’s license?” And I say, “Can you prove you’re a citizen?” and you say, “Well, no, not yet,” and I say, “Too bad! You can’t have a driver’s license. But you’re welcome to stay in our Sanctuary City.” And you say, “But I can’t legally drive around in it?” And the actual answer to that in Oregon is quite possibly, “No, you may not.”

        Research has been done on the effects of these exclusionary policies. While easier access to a driver’s license is a solution, I’d also argue that providing walkable, bikeable streets with transit is the superior solution for all residents. It achieves safety goals & more equitable life enjoyment goals. Not everyone can, should, or wants to be forced to drive a car. Car culture can be an awfully despairing place to live.

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      • wsbob February 23, 2017 at 10:35 pm

        Naomi Fast at February 23, 2017 at 5:17 pm:

        naomi…I enjoyed your thoughtful explanation of what you meant in referring to exclusions that limit the uses some people can make of streets and roads. That’s hairy territory, delicate, controversial. Too late for my brain to dig into that at this time tonight I think. Lack of documentation posing all kinds of problems. Now on the brink of getting much worse. Maybe we could just stick to biking issues…not simple, but comparatively much easier ones to deal with.

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  • fourknees February 21, 2017 at 11:35 am

    Nice post Naomi. I would love to see a “ride along” style post in the future of your favorite routes. I always feel there are more riders from Beaverton or riding through Beaverton then we realize. I rarely see bikes on roads like Murray, but always see others on more pleasant-to-ride neighborhood routes.

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  • Trikeguy February 21, 2017 at 11:47 am

    I’ve been car-free for 29years. It was a lot easier in downtown portland (21st and Burnside allows for really great access to shopping, MAX and a 2 mile walk to work (before old knee injuries stopped that – then afast easy bike commute)).

    Now 4 years in Beaverton, and it’s not bad. You do have to plan a bit better because Freddies isn’t just a 3minute walk down the street, work is >10miles away by bike or about 1hr by transit+walking.

    Even coming back from illness and being dramatically weaker than I was in Sept. all the reasons you listed for staying car free hold true.

    I have noticed (since my new route puts me in far more bike lanes than my old steep route) that my bike lanes in Beaverton proper are in much better shape than the ones I take in Portland.

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  • Trikeguy February 21, 2017 at 11:48 am

    Glenn
    I love these types of post..gets me motivated to ride more (dam you couch and netflix)
    For these really bad road months need to get away from the skinny tires bikes and more to some 2″+ tires w/knobby’s & some finders…then unimproved roads get fun…
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    I now have 40mm tires on wide cliffhanger rims all the way ’round on my trike – talk about feeling like you can handle the cruddy roads 🙂

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  • bikeninja February 21, 2017 at 11:50 am

    Great article Naomi, Loved the 6 reasons to bike. More reasons why cyclists will inherit the universe as happy motoring winds down the age of petroleum comes to an end.

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    • El Biciclero February 21, 2017 at 2:56 pm

      “…cyclists will inherit the universe as happy motoring winds down the age of petroleum comes to an end.”

      Well, those that survive the war, anyway…

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  • Joe February 21, 2017 at 12:44 pm

    Awesome thanks for doing what ya do, I have been car free for 10 years now and live out in Wilsonville Oregon, its the burbs and biking has been huge part of my 51 years on this planet, sometimes I feel taken advantage of on the roads.. Working out at Nike I see all kinds of crazy 🙁 just this year alone I have almost been run down because I took lane when needed. * thanks for great article and bike on 🙂 * if u see me wave can’t miss me I ride single speed with pink wheels LOL. peace all

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    • Naomi Fast February 21, 2017 at 9:44 pm

      Nice! I’ll keep an eye out for your wheels, Joe!

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  • Art Fuldodger February 21, 2017 at 12:47 pm

    thanks, Naomi, good essay – I look forward to more. On item 4. , Civic and community contribution, I’d add one small public service I provide when bicycling: how often people driving ask me for directions because, y’know, I’m readily available. Sadly, this seems to happen less frequently now with the ubiquity of smart phones & Google Maps.

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    • BradWagon February 21, 2017 at 8:43 pm

      Very much this. Your a person involved with that piece of community not just getting through it.

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  • Tim February 21, 2017 at 1:58 pm

    My personal favorite reason to bike is that it makes everyday different. If I was in a car I wouldn’t have gotten wet the last couple of mornings or appreciated staying dry yesterday afternoon.

    I have observed a perception that the suburbs are a poor place for cycling. I ride nearly every day in Beaverton and frequently ride in Portland, and while there are differences, I don’t see one area as poor and another as good. I enjoy riding on residential streets and cutting through the parks in the suburbs, but route finding these hidden passages can be tricky and if you don’t know where you are going, you could end up on Farmington or Murry. Portland has better bike signage and facilities, but also busier streets and on-street parking. I have not noticed much difference in drivers, except in very rural areas where nearly everyone waves and gives you a country mile when they pass.

    Bike ridership is low in the suburbs, so I suggest looking at the suburbs as growth potential rather than a bad place to ride.

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    • BB February 21, 2017 at 2:42 pm

      I have found that in the suburbs there is a higher rate of people deliberately assaulting me with their automotive conveyances due to my presence on the road. As a result I avoid riding in the suburbs, and when I can’t avoid them I certainly don’t frequent the businesses owned and staffed by the hostile locals.

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      • BVT_Biker February 21, 2017 at 3:14 pm

        This sort of fear-mongering is not appreciated. People are in general understanding and friendly; regardless of their transportation preference. Do not let a few bullies spoil your mood or you may pass your frown down the line.

        Great article, Naomi. I’ve been following you on Twitter and now that I’ve seen a picture of your bicycle I will definitely keep an eye out and wave.

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      • Tim February 21, 2017 at 3:40 pm

        Having ridden a fair bit in a wide variety of places and conditions, I have experienced driver hostility and harassment. However, these instances are rare enough that I have observed no correlation with time, place, vehicle, or driver. Therefore, I conclude statements like this are based on preconception and lack of experience. Furthermore these statements are counterproductive to improving street safety and ridership.

        I once had a lady run a stop sign and then threaten me. I called the Washington County Sharif who paid her a visit. Try getting the Portland Police to do anything about someone threatening a cyclist.

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        • BB February 21, 2017 at 4:20 pm

          Of course, it’s “my fault” based on your assumptions about my level of experience. Typical suburban carhead victim blaming.

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        • Jim February 22, 2017 at 9:02 am

          Having ridden a fair bit in a wide variety of places and conditions, I have experienced driver hostility and harassment. I have observed a correlation with time, place, vehicle, and driver. Rush hour, sports cars, trucks, male drivers, areas that experience fewer cyclists and pedestrians, these all seem to up the odds of experiencing road aggression and violence. These are only observations of patterns, and not certainties.

          Therefore, I conclude that your statements are based on preconception and lack of experience. Furthermore these statements are counterproductive to improving street safety and ridership.

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      • El Biciclero February 21, 2017 at 6:23 pm

        “hostile locals.”

        Hey, now–how do you know which “locals” are hostile? This very article was written by a Beaverton local; I’m a Beaverton local–you don’t know for sure where either one of us works…

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      • Naomi's actual real husband February 21, 2017 at 8:03 pm

        You’re gonna have an “a-ha moment” when you read the tale alluded-to at the end of the post. (I’ve read drafts of it.)

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      • Kyle Banerjee February 23, 2017 at 9:50 am

        Whether or not the correlation is real, the basic issue is that if you project qualities onto people who may or may not have these qualities (and typically don’t), you can create problems out of thin air — if you go out looking for battle, you will find it every time.

        The vast majority of bicycle commuters in an urban area encounter hundreds of drivers every day. If you have a decent length commute along busy highway, that number will be in the thousands. Even in bad areas, the percentage of drivers that do something hostile is minuscule.

        The problems are real, but so is the fact that most drivers really aren’t that bad. If they were, riding would not be feasible.

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      • dwk February 23, 2017 at 12:00 pm

        I am sure you are missed……

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      • Adam H.
        Adam H. February 23, 2017 at 1:11 pm

        I have not found that at all, in fact I have found Beaverton drivers to be more courteous than most drivers in inner southeast Portland. However, the bike infrastructure on the west side is not great – save for a few quality bike paths – and vehicle speeds are far greater, since most streets in Washington County are 45 MPH 4+ lanes wide. It is for the latter reason that I generally avoid riding in the west side suburbs and if I do, I’m usually on the sidewalk.

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  • AlliD February 21, 2017 at 2:48 pm

    Thanks, Naomi–I enjoyed your post.
    I agree with your reasons to ride and would add one of my own.
    Over the years of riding I have seen just so much animal death–both road kill and actually witnessing cats, dogs, squirrels, etc. get run over. (I’ve even rescued a kitten stranded on a highway underpass). I just can’t get over the violence of the automobile and riding is my way to lessen that death toll.

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  • Ted Buehler February 21, 2017 at 3:29 pm

    Thanks for the guest post, Naomi and Jonathan.

    2 comments on this:
    “Recently, I was riding in dangerous gravel in the SW Murray Blvd bike lane near the Nike Woods, and had to move into the main traffic lane at times to avoid skidding.”

    First, always consider going slower to be safer. Much safer to ride at 6 mph in the gravel than 12 mph in the travel lane. While it “feels” a lot slower, it’s only going to slow you down by one minute per stretch, or five minutes for the whole ride. Tops. (I’ve been riding without a helmet for a year now, and to compensate I’m frequently asking myself “am I doing anything unnecessarily risky here and now?” in any given condition. It’s hard to unlearn my usual built-in quest for speed).

    Second, consider getting the Beaverton or Washington County road maintenance phone #s or email addresses and saving them to your phone. Make a point of making a maintenance request a couple times a week. (And if you’re extra-motivated, submit thank-you comments when they’ve fixed something.)

    A quick google search pulls up this:
    http://www.beavertonoregon.gov/438/Operations-Maintenance

    Street Maintenance
    Phone: 503-526-2568

    Traffic Signals, Signs & Streetlights
    Phone: 503-526-2206

    Ted Buehler

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    • Eric Leifsdad March 2, 2017 at 12:57 am

      Maybe a non-profit (like BikeLoud) could act as our cyclists’ union or something and hire several people to bike around and report problems with Ted’s level of professionalism and eloquence. I would give money to that endeavor. GoFundMe/Kickstarter?

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  • GlowBoy February 21, 2017 at 4:38 pm

    Great article. I write this as I’m about to ride on some Beaverton bike lanes myself about 10 minutes from now. I wouldn’t say the bike lanes here are in better shape than those in Portland. Maybe the ones in Beaverton proper are OK, but as you get out towards Hillsboro some are pretty bad. Evergreen Parkway was a real mess, and with the 20×2″ tires on my folding bike I can handle just about anything. Thick enough gravel to be difficult to ride in places, and also obstructing much of the bike-lane striping and stenciling.

    I especially appreciate your point #5 above: efficiency. Many of my acquaintances think I either waste a lot of time or don’t value it, because my biking is slower than driving. Many of these people also spend time (and money) the gym. I might take longer to get to the same destination as them, but I’m multitasking and they’re not. I spend far less time biking to my destination (while simultaneously working out) than they do driving to the same destination, PLUS working out, PLUS driving to the gym.

    If anything, I bike precisely because life is short and I don’t have time to waste.

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    • the other Glenn February 21, 2017 at 7:38 pm

      I’ve heard it said that if you take the total distance covered by the average car (disclaimers apply), and divide it by not only the travel time, but all the time spent working to pay all the costs associated with car ownership, the average overall speed comes out to about 5mph.

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      • the other Glenn February 21, 2017 at 7:44 pm

        “I’d take a car, but who has the TIME!?!?”

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      • soren February 23, 2017 at 11:50 am

        my average cycling speed is 4 mph higher than my average driving speed.

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  • wsbob February 21, 2017 at 7:37 pm

    You like to ride, and you’re lucky to be able to ride…many people can’t. I like to ride, but having a motor vehicle for travel as well, can be a very good thing to have available…for shopping, when not feeling so well, etc. Not a big deal in terms of contributing to congestion, because most of the driving I do, is off the main thoroughfares, and at times other than commute hours.

    The ferocity of large throughfare traffic…on Murray, but also on roads such as 185th, Farmington, Canyon Rd, Beav-Hillsdale Hwy…really spoil much of the great experience that can be had from biking. I’ve got some fairly solid reason to believe many people just flat will not even consider riding a bike if it involves riding on roads with the type of traffic typical of those I mentioned.

    I don’t really have much in the way of a good solution to the bad riding environment those type roads present. Plot out alternative routes using side streets, can be an option, but some people don’t want to do that. Good north-south routes is where Beaverton is really lacking for good conditions for biking. The Westside trail sort of meets that need, but it’s more recreational, slow and pedestrian congested, rather than good for speedy commuting.

    I think it’s important to emphasize to people showing some interest in biking out here, that there are some really nice riding routes in Beaverton. It’s a little bit of effort to find them. As part of using those routes practically, building up enough experience to be comfortable, also riding the thoroughfares, helps a lot towards overall good riding experiences.

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    • Jim February 22, 2017 at 8:57 am

      I like to ride and I’m lucky to be able to. Some people can’t. Also many people can. Let’s be honest and empowering about this. Many people don’t cycle but could. This is not to judge their choices, but to open up the possibility of far higher ridership.

      Also, if you drive a car then you are part of traffic (and I would say congestion). I live off the main thoroughfares, and our street is disturbed by cars at all hours of the day. I understand that you may choose to drive if you are not feeling well or want to go shopping. That is a choice you can make, it benefits you but negatively impacts others, and you are still part of car traffic. None of this is a big deal, but it is a more accurate description of the situation.

      I am not trying to attack you, but I think we all need to be honest and not defensive of the choices we make and the language we use. You say that having a car available can be a very good thing. It may be a very good thing for you, but it does negatively impact non-motorized road users. And yes, there are many things I do that negatively affect other people. I think a helpful start would be if we can all recognize these things in ourselves.

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      • wsbob February 22, 2017 at 10:31 am

        I’m open to higher ridership…very. As I wrote, because of the times of day I drive, and the routes I take, my use of a motor vehicle really is rarely contributing to traffic congestion. I don’t offer this out of defense of my use of a motor vehicle, but as an explanation of that use for transportation, and how it affects the overall transportation use made of the roads in my area.

        Many people, could, physically…at least, ride a bike instead of drive. I wish they would, but there’s probably a lot missing in terms of incentive for them to do so.

        Today’s weather might be a fair example. Looking out my window…got to go soon…it looks as though the sun is going to come out. Just an hour or so earlier though, it was much darker due to heavy overcast, and fog…and the air was wet and clammy. It felt cold, even though it wasn’t very cold. Lots of those people that could bike, would take those conditions into consideration, and easily decide it would be much safer and more comfortable to pop into their warm, cozy, motor vehicle for whatever trips they need to make, at least for the start of the day until the fog goes away, the sun comes out and it warms up.

        Better cycling infrastructure in Beaverton, I think, could be a major incentive to riding. More later…got to go now.

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      • wsbob February 22, 2017 at 11:24 pm

        …for example, when I drive for grocery shopping, it tends to be late, often like about now, which reminds me… . Very little traffic on the road, the parking lot has lots of spaces to park, no driving around to get one. I have biked the mile to the store a bunch of times. In summer, nice weather, it’s a kind of nice ride, and the store doesn’t complain in the evening, about my bringing the bike in and around the store as I shop. This time of year, wet and cold, it’s not fun, doesn’t feel safe, and my motor vehicle is much better for hauling the groceries than is my bike. I could do it, even get a trailer for groceries, but I have to have a motor vehicle for work anyway, to haul tools, etc. So, driving for groceries in the circumstances I described, is nice to have the motor vehicle for.

        As for how the quality of bike infrastructure in Beaverton is capable of providing for practical biking purposes as compared to recreational biking purposes, I’m most familiar with my own neighborhood, which is Central Beaverton, between Beaverton Town Center mall, and the Cedar Hills Crossing mall, latter being the far bigger of the two. It’s lacking. It doesn’t have spacious, continuous bike lanes, uncrowded by the main lanes used with motor vehicles…from the neighborhoods in this area, to the malls.

        This sizeable neighborhood should have a basic bike lane route system of this type, of a quality that would invite ordinary non-cyclist type people to ride from their homes to the malls. If the city had this, it seems to me that at least in fair weather, during the day, many more people than do now, might be interested in riding their bikes to these two very important city malls.

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  • In Trump We Trust February 22, 2017 at 12:43 pm

    Used to bike in downtown Seattle. 20 years ago it was no problem. Don’t know how it is now.
    Do not like biking in downtown Portland – too much congestion, weird markings and paint on the streets that I don’t know the meaning of. Thats one reason I don’t like driving downtown PDX – it was better 15 years ago.
    Biking in Beaverton/Hillsboro/Washington county is very pleasant compared to biking in downtown PDX – many streets have bike lanes, and streets like TV Highway and Hall Blvd are great – long stretches with no intersections! You can keep moving. Better street sweeping would be useful – although I have never encounted road crews putting down “gravel” for ice – cinders yes, sand yes, gravel no.
    Riding a bicycle on roads designed for automobiles is tricky – need to be using larger tires like for mountain bikes – in urban/suburban riding there are just too many bumps for skinny tires IMHO.

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    • soren February 23, 2017 at 11:40 am

      I biked downtown in Seattle in the 90s too — there was essentially no bike infrastructure and drivers were routinely aggressive. I was smacked by mirrors during close passes 3 times in Seattle — something that has never happened once here.

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    • wsbob March 2, 2017 at 10:37 am

      “…Biking in Beaverton/Hillsboro/Washington county is very pleasant compared to biking in downtown PDX – many streets have bike lanes, and streets like TV Highway and Hall Blvd are great – long stretches with no intersections! You can keep moving. …” in trump, etc

      Beaverton has much better streets to bike on than those two you mentioned. For example, Lombard just to the east for a better north-south route from Denney to the south (Hall is longer, goes all the way out to Washington Sq, Tigard, and beyond.

      Amazing to me always, that some people are willing to ride on east-west TV Hwy, when there is an arguably better, nearby alternative. Traffic on the road is fast and noisy, though granted, it does have a decently wide bike lane which allows fast riding. The road is bottom of the list of choices for me.

      Better, I think, but slower for biking, more roundabout, and involving more stops and starts and map route finding, would be for example starting from Beaverton Central: Millikan Way, Westside Trail to Merlo, to 170th, to Pheasant, to 185th, to Johnson St, To Alexander, etc…like I said, if you don’t take TV, it’s not a straight shot…you’ve got to use your map if you’ve not ridden this route to Hillsboro before. For me, this off-highway route is very much better.

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  • Zaphod February 22, 2017 at 2:54 pm

    Nice read! I’ve lived a car free existence for 8 years. I now have a mostly dormant car + metromile insurance. I have yet to use it in the city electively, meaning replacing a trip where I’d otherwise have ridden.

    Being car free or car light is very liberating.
    Being in the elements is the embodiment of life from my view.
    Meaning one experiences the good and bad of it all.
    One appreciates a clear dry day, or a not too freezing wet one so much more than others.
    Also, small things feel like impossible luxuries. Having recently invested in waterproof shoes… it’s like the most joyous thing in the world…dry feet!!!
    The level of appreciation for something so small is… well, being on a bike so much aligns with everything in my philosophy.

    Thank you for writing your story!

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    • Naomi Fast February 23, 2017 at 10:31 pm

      Your comment makes me so happy! “Impossible luxuries;” I know that feeling! So true, that simple small shifts can bring such transformation.

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  • Pete February 24, 2017 at 9:04 pm

    Sorry for the short notice, but I just found out about Beaverton’s Active Transportation Virtual Open House (I’m told the planners in charge aren’t cyclists so it’d be good to have input from experienced riders there).

    Hurry – it ends Sunday:
    http://openhouse.jla.us.com/beaverton-atp

    Also http://www.BeavertonOregon.gov/ActiveTransportationPlan

    Looking forward to the next installment, Naomi!

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    • wsbob February 25, 2017 at 1:14 am

      The ‘open house’ survey is very good. It asks the right questions, has good opportunities for people responding, to be quite specific about what their needs and interests are, walking and biking. Good pictures of examples of different types of biking infrastructure. Viewing and participating in this survey, takes a fast computer connection and preferably, a fairly big screen. With wi-fi at the local coffee shop, the pages loaded up ok, but the amount of detail made it very difficult to take in well on the little tablet screen.

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    • wsbob February 28, 2017 at 11:47 pm

      Just in the mail today, Beaverton’s bi-montly newsletter to residents. I usually browse through it for interesting bits of info on what the city is working on…pages 8 and 9 briefly talk about the city’s interest in completing its active transportation plan, and also, continuing work on the Canyon Rd Alternative Bike Network.

      If you’ve walked or biked westward to Millikan Way, across Lombard, from the Beav transit center, you might have found yourself deciding to traipse over the dirt path on the north side of the apartment building with the taco truck on its east side…instead of going south to busy, noisy Canyon Rd. Path is only a 100′ feet long or so, but well shux…when the dirt gets wet, it’s voila…mud. On this path, some kind of paving, whatever material it turns out to be, will be a definite improvement.

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  • Skid February 25, 2017 at 9:18 pm

    I lived on the west side in Aloha for over 10 years and found biking there to be much more pleasant than biking in inner SE (and deep SE) and NE. Way less bike/car conflicts. If I could move back I would.

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