London cycling deaths lead 1 in 5 to stop riding bike to work, finds poll

Further 3 in 10 vary route; we look at results of 2 recent surveys focused on cycling in the capital

by Simon_MacMichael   December 2, 2013  

London:cyclist in traffic (copyright Simon MacMichael).jpg

One in five cyclists in London have stopped riding their bike to work as a result of the six deaths of bike riders in the city during a two-week period last month, while a further three in ten have varied their route to work – although the city’s cycling commissioner, Andrew Gilligan, insists media attention on crashes in which riders have died provokes fear among both existing and potential cyclists.

However, perhaps surprisingly given those recent fatalities, cyclists do not believe it is more dangerous to cycle in London now compared to 12 months ago – only one in three of those who ride a bike at least once a week in the city agreed with that statement, and 38 per cent of those who ride there less often.

There is still however a widespread perception of cycling as being dangerous according to the poll, carried out by ComRes on behalf of BBC London, with more than two thirds of all respondents, including non-cyclists, disagreeing that London’s roads are safe to cycle on.

The survey results have been published just days after minister for cycling Robert Goodwill said he has never felt in danger while riding his bike in the capital, but can understand why others are fearful of taking to two wheels.

The minister also said he would like to see more women riding bikes in the city, but the ComRes survey of 1,070 people, of whom around a quarter were cyclists, shows that females were much more likely to strongly disagree with the statement that London’s roads are safe to cycle on, at 43 per cent versus 30 per cent.

Other findings of the poll include that almost half of regular cyclists – 47 per cent – disagree that the city’s Barclays Cycle Superhighways are safe to ride on, with 42 per cent agreeing that they are, and that 63 per cent of cyclists ride on pavements to avoid dangerous junctions and roads.

However, there was overwhelming support for segregated cycle lanes to separate cyclists from other traffic, at almost nine in ten respondents, consistent across those who ride weekly, less regular cyclists and non-cyclists alike.

Around eight out of ten respondents said Mayor of London Boris Johnson “should be doing more to respond to the deaths and serious accidents amongst cyclists on London’s roads.”

However, Mr Gilligan, appointed by Mr Johnson earlier this year, criticised the poll’s sample size as “manifestly tiny" (although for market research purposes, a sample of 1,000 produces a 95 per cent confidence level with a margin of error of  +/- 3 per cent).

Speaking to BBC London, he also attacked the media for its "all-consuming focus" on the recent cyclist fatalities that he said "has contributed to the fear that cyclists and potential cyclists feel."

Even before November’s deaths, however, surveys have consistently shown that the perceived danger of cycling as the principal barrier to getting more people cycling.

Mr Gilligan added: "We know that fear about safety is a real and major deterrent to cycling and the mayor is doing more than any other politician in the country to address it,” and that investment was being made to "improve London's roads for cyclists, something that was happening before this recent tragic spate of deaths".

The poll’s results have been published a little more than a week after a separate survey of Londoners found that 35 per cent of cyclists at least ‘occasionally’ ignore red traffic lights although most – 53 per cent – state they never do so.

That poll, from YouGov, had a similar sample size – 1,066 respondents  – and again, around a quarter of them said they were cyclists.

Nearly nine in ten of all respondents, 87 per cent, and 72 per cent of cyclists, agreed police “should prosecute far more cyclists who ignore red lights”.

Seven in ten bike riders surveyed by YouGov agreed that “there should be many more cycle lanes in London, even if this means reducing the road space available to motor vehicles,” as did nearly half of non-cyclists, 47 per cent.

However, more than half of all respondents, 55 per cent, agreed with the statement, “cyclists should be banned from some busy main roads in the morning and evening rush hour” – as did a surprising 42 per cent of cyclists.

The survey also found that half of non-cyclists, and nearly two in three bike riders, 64 per cent, shared the view that “all employers should be required by law to provide dry, secure places where employees can leave their bicycles.”

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"However, perhaps surprisingly given those recent fatalities, cyclists do not believe it is more dangerous to cycle in London now compared to 12 months ago"

Well what reason is there to think its changed over such a short time-scale? The casualty figure for this year is basically the same as last year, after all, just distributed slightly more unevenly across the year.

I'm wondering whether the recent surge in police harassment of cyclists might dissuade some from cycling in future, though.

"However, more than half of all respondents, 55 per cent, agreed with the statement, “cyclists should be banned from some busy main roads in the morning and evening rush hour” – as did a surprising 42 per cent of cyclists."

I take this as "British public wants everyone to drive".

Were they asked if motor cars should be banned from any roads? Or was that just not an option?

"87 per cent, and 72 per cent of cyclists, agreed police “should prosecute far more cyclists who ignore red lights”."

Did the survey even ask about amber-gambling by motorists? If not, why not?

posted by FluffyKittenofT... [668 posts]
2nd December 2013 - 13:14

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I've been away on holiday and wondered when I got back to London last week, "where are all the cyclists?"

It can't only be the weather, it's been a bit crisp but not raining.

posted by drmatthewhardy [305 posts]
2nd December 2013 - 13:33

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I work in a large office in London, and probably 90% of the people here DON'T cycle to work, despite there being free secure bike parking and showers.

Whenever I hear people complain about the tube I cheerily say "you should try cycling!"... the response is always the same: "It's far too dangerous".

People won't even try it if they think they might die.

posted by MrGear [85 posts]
2nd December 2013 - 14:35

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One in five cyclists in London have stopped riding their bike to work as a result of the six deaths of bike riders in the city during a two-week period last month ...

The full results of the survey is pretty grim reading. It is not surprising that 1 in 5 have stopped cycling in London when the survey also reveals that 69% of regular cyclists are “worried about family of friends cycling in London” and 26% of regular cyclists have been involved in an accident whilst cycling in London. Surprise

What I do find somewhat surprising is the view of what are the main causes of accidents involving cyclists, according to regular London cyclists:

Cyclists: 30% Surprise
Motorists: 35%
Unsafe roads: 14%
Weather: 2%
Other: 6%
Don’t know 10%

According to all who were surveyed, the main causes of accidents are:

Cyclists: 38% Surprise "Houston, we have a problem."
Motorists: 33%
Unsafe roads: 16%
Weather: 2%
Other: 4%
Don’t know: 6%

I am surprised that not even regular cyclists consider "unsafe roads" to be that important a factor in accidents given the controversy surrounding the cycle superhighways. Politically, the results of surveys like this will somewhat take the heat off of Buffoooooooooon Boris unfortunately.

Other high/low(lights):

62% in favour of a cycling licence similar to a driver's licence, (46% of regular London cyclists support this)

91% in favour of compulsory cycle helmets (74% of regular London cyclists support this)

56% in favour of banning HGVs at peak times (56% of regular London cyclists)

34% of regular London cyclists admit to jumping red lights despite knowing the risks.

Overall, the message from regular cyclists as well as non-cyclists in this survey seems to be that the most effective measure that can be taken to improve cycling safety in London is for cyclists to cycle more responsibly.

Controversial.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/shared/bsp/hi/pdfs/02_12_13_cycling.pdf

Never in a hurry on a bicycle.

posted by GoingRoundInCycles [134 posts]
2nd December 2013 - 15:02

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We should never read too much into this type survey, but the fact that 42% of cyclists are (reported) as agreeing that, "cyclists should be banned from some busy main roads in the morning and evening rush hour”, is interesting.

I've always maintained that cyclists should retain the right to cycle where we like, but if we can voluntarily opt to ride on quieter routes where possible and, perhaps more importantly, show inexperienced cyclists how to avoid dangerous routes, then we may reduce the likelyhood of peak time bans for cyclists on busy roads.

Apart from anything, segregated schemes alongside main routes still leave cyclists exposed to higher pollution which, despite not receiving the press coverage it deserves, is a massive killer.

But we should take heart. In the same survey, 5% of respondents said that they had given up driving recently.

"Hey..... Let's be visible out there."

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posted by Neil753 [451 posts]
2nd December 2013 - 15:05

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I'm not surprised by this poll. I commuted with my other half for about four months of this year, as we tour a lot on bikes and she needed to get in shape. She told me recently that she's dreading next year, when she planned to start the commute again.

Personally, I find this big massive 'debate' to be hilarious. The matter is of such blinding clarity, that the hot air which is being wasted by 'experts' invited to the BBC studios, and by the vermin that are our politicians, really needs to be ignored.

Everything is incentive. Our actions are governed by things we want to happen, and things we do not want to happen. If a driver passes a cyclist so close that the bodywork of his car grazes the cycle pannier on the bike (as happened to me earlier on this year), and gets away with it, then he will do it again. The fact that so many car drivers do not hesitate to use their cars as weapons - or to get out of their car and use their fists - shows that there is no incentive not to do so.

Incentive. Incentive. Incentive.

So all of the talking, all of the prevarication and all of the gobsh*te that we have seen spouted over the past couple of months, is a complete laugh. It's simple: make it too costly for drivers (and yes, cyclists) to break the law and place other people in danger. Either hit their pocket, or ..

The law should take care of this. If the law refuses, then it is up to cyclists to protect themselves.

'It is well enough that people of the nation do not understand our banking and monetary system, for if they did, I believe there would be a revolution before tomorrow morning' (Henry Ford)

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posted by cyclingDMlondon [212 posts]
2nd December 2013 - 15:42

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MrGear wrote:
People won't even try it if they think they might die.

I always find that when I'm on the bike, it never feels dangerous, but when on foot and watching other cyclists (even when they're doing stuff that I also do), it's, 'Bloody hell ... that is suicide!'

Sticking my neck out (and perhaps tempting face..), my opinion is that if you don't ride like a f*ckwit, then your chances of getting home to the spouse and kids, is greatly increased. I ride fast, never go through red lights, never ride on the pavement, and I stop for zebra crossings and the like.

'It is well enough that people of the nation do not understand our banking and monetary system, for if they did, I believe there would be a revolution before tomorrow morning' (Henry Ford)

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posted by cyclingDMlondon [212 posts]
2nd December 2013 - 16:10

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As a matter of principle I have to agree that the police should prosecute cyclists that break the law but only in the same way that they prosecute other road users. That's a big task and if they have to prioritise that enforcement effort it's only logical that the effort should be focused on the most dangerous offenders.

If they turned the speed cameras back on and stopped this nonsense whereby speeders get off with the points if they attend a course on speeding then that would help. I assume it's a way of diverting the £60 fine that automatically goes to the chancellor of the exchequer and which the police don't get their mitts on, into a course Cost £80 x 20 people £1600 a pop that they pay an instructor £100 to deliver. Net result is that they get the fine money.

I am an advanced driver btw and the whole reasoning behind points was to get your attention via insurance costs and a pathway towards a ban. The net result of the courses is to make the ban 3 points further off and insurance for speeders less expensive than it would otherwise have been.

It is pretty difficult to get done for speeding. You have to be speeding in addition to not paying attention to multiple warning signs, brightly coloured cameras and Hi Visibility police cars.

I think most drivers would actually be happier with a strict limit. I have driven extensively in the US and in most places there you will pick up a ticket for speeding even over just a few miles (the local police department keeps the monies so enforcement pays for itself). In this country people feel victimised because the chances of getting a tiket are so arbitrary. Most people are speeding to a greater or lesser extent and only a few unlucky ones get a ticket. They are guilty but feel hard done by all the same.

If everyone ignoring the speed limit was pretty sure that they and all the others were certain to be caught they wouldn't be speeding and they would feel happier that the system wasn't so arbitrary.

Conversation at work about speeding tend to focus on the random number that people think the police will allow you to drive at before being stopped. That number ranges from 75 to 85 on a motorway. Now if people knew the number was 70 or even 80 (if they changed it) but no more or else. That would be better.

As it is the police do not enforce traffic laws very thoroughly. They should.

Cycling is like a church - many attend, but few understand.

posted by oozaveared [574 posts]
2nd December 2013 - 16:38

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cyclingDMlondon wrote:
MrGear wrote:
People won't even try it if they think they might die.

I always find that when I'm on the bike, it never feels dangerous, but when on foot and watching other cyclists (even when they're doing stuff that I also do), it's, 'Bloody hell ... that is suicide!'

Sticking my neck out (and perhaps tempting face..), my opinion is that if you don't ride like a f*ckwit, then your chances of getting home to the spouse and kids, is greatly increased. I ride fast, never go through red lights, never ride on the pavement, and I stop for zebra crossings and the like.

Yeah me too... which is probably why I feel relatively safe, most of the time.

posted by MrGear [85 posts]
2nd December 2013 - 16:40

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oozaveared wrote:
Conversation at work about speeding tend to focus on the random number that people think the police will allow you to drive at before being stopped. That number ranges from 75 to 85 on a motorway. Now if people knew the number was 70 or even 80 (if they changed it) but no more or else. That would be better.

The technology exists to have each new car equipped with the necessary electronics, to sanction every single speeding violation, automatically. The only reason it's not being implemented is because people would whine about 'civil liberties'.

Fine. Have a cross-party committee, with members of (among others) Amnesty International, Liberty etc., charged with overseeing the scheme, with a solemn promise that the data will never be used for any other purpose. No recording of data, except where some scrote speeds, and then, he gets a letter a week later, informing him that he'll be getting a taxi to work for the next ninety days.

'It is well enough that people of the nation do not understand our banking and monetary system, for if they did, I believe there would be a revolution before tomorrow morning' (Henry Ford)

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posted by cyclingDMlondon [212 posts]
2nd December 2013 - 17:00

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Would really like to know how wearing a helmet would make cycling safer? Does the road layout suddenly change, does it create a force field around you so a ten ton lorry can't hit you?
Sick and tiered of all this crap about helmets, the roads are over crowded, road and cycle-path designs/layout are the real problem, as well as, "if you ride a bike it's cos your to poor to own and drive a car", attitude of the general public!!

posted by Krd51 [20 posts]
2nd December 2013 - 17:21

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Actually, the sample size IS too small to get that much from with regard to cyclists. Although c.1,000 is a reasonable size, only about a quarter of these are defined as "cyclists" - and we don't know if these are every day, once a week, or once a month people.

Insofar as we have to take the answers of "cyclists" seriously, the main finding is that so many accept all the self-hating, victim-blaming garbage re-helmets etc. I mean, volunteering to be banned from a road...how about banning those responsible for bringing danger there in the first place?

posted by ChairRDRF [121 posts]
2nd December 2013 - 18:14

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the police getting at cyclists will have certainly put some off.

I am sure that all the people who died had waited at the lights, were wearing helmets, probably not listening to music on headphones and probably wearing HiViz.

posted by pique [18 posts]
2nd December 2013 - 18:40

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ChairRDRF wrote:
Actually, the sample size IS too small to get that much from with regard to cyclists. Although c.1,000 is a reasonable size, only about a quarter of these are defined as "cyclists" - and we don't know if these are every day, once a week, or once a month people.

According to the survey:

7% cycle every day 72 cyclists
5% at least once per week 54 cyclists
4% at least once per month 41 cyclists
9% less than once per month 90 cyclists
74% never cycle 742 cyclists

Of the 257 who cycle in London:

46% have been cycling in London for at least 5 years
19% have been cycling in London between 2 and 5 years
10% between 1 - 2 years
8% between 6 and 12 months
8% less than 3 months

Quote:
Insofar as we have to take the answers of "cyclists" seriously, the main finding is that so many accept all the self-hating, victim-blaming garbage re-helmets etc. I mean, volunteering to be banned from a road...how about banning those responsible for bringing danger there in the first place?

Maybe it is not all garbage? Did you not also see 34% of cyclists admitting to jumping red lights? What do you make of that?

My own opinion, having lived in London my whole life and cycled at least once per week for 30+ years is that:

- Cycling has become politicised and a substantial minority of cyclists ride like self-entitled idiots. They behave as if using a more environmentally sound mode of transport confers immunity from death or injury and should also confer the right to treat other road users, and the rules of the road with utter contempt.

- A substantial but smaller minority are either inexperienced or thick and could use some education and training before they take to the road. I would back compulsory training for cyclists, equivalent to the motorcycle CBT, if such a proposal were made.

Never in a hurry on a bicycle.

posted by GoingRoundInCycles [134 posts]
2nd December 2013 - 19:17

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GoingRoundInCycles wrote:

Overall, the message from regular cyclists as well as non-cyclists in this survey seems to be that the most effective measure that can be taken to improve cycling safety in London is for cyclists to cycle more responsibly.

Controversial.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/shared/bsp/hi/pdfs/02_12_13_cycling.pdf


Interesting observations. That last one though... hate to say it, but I couldn't agree more.

I know I'm giving my usual hobby horse another sugar lump here, but how many of this year's casualties have been 'enthusiast' cyclists? Few-to-none. It's the everyday cyclists, the nodders, the riders who are blissfully unaware of the risks they're running... they're the ones who blithely cruise through junctions as if they don't apply to the two-wheeled, who slide up the inside of trucks and who bimble along in the gutter with no lights. It's a slaughter of the innocents. Sad

Boardman CX Team '14 | Cannondale CAAD8 '12 (written off, SMIDSY) | Scott Sportster '08

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posted by Gizmo_ [827 posts]
2nd December 2013 - 20:03

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I've had a look at a recent cycling related thread on the BBC's "Have Your Say" (the beeb's own time limited forum for topics of the moment) and noticed that the overwhelming three "hates" amongst motorists were:

1. Cyclists don't pay "road tax".
2. Cyclists jump lights.
3. Cyclists ride too fast in town.

Although there's not much hope for the tw**ts who think we should pay "road tax", drivers do have a a right to moan about the other two points, in my opinion.

I personally think that red light jumping cyclists should get 3 penalty points on the driving licences, or three points held in readiness for when they do get get their licences if they have yet to obtain one. Plus the fixed penalty of course. If the penalty is severe enough, and the chances of getting caught are high enough, the problem would disappear and we'd see far less aggression from drivers.

And, frankly, many cyclists do indeed ride too fast in town.
Full gas up Highgate Hill is fine, but blasting past a stopped bus at a speed that would kill a child whose grip has been momentarily lost by its mother, as she struggles to unfold a pushchair, definitely isn't. And yet most cyclists seem to struggle with this degree of hazard perception.

Whether it's right or wrong, we're collectively portrayed as "cyclists" in the media, rather than people who sometimes travel by bicycle, so it is up to all of us to act as "ambassadors" to those less experienced (or less responsible) than ourselves.

Only then will attitudes change.

"Hey..... Let's be visible out there."

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posted by Neil753 [451 posts]
2nd December 2013 - 22:36

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Neil753 wrote:

And, frankly, many cyclists do indeed ride too fast in town.
Full gas up Highgate Hill is fine, but blasting past a stopped bus at a speed that would kill a child whose grip has been momentarily lost by its mother, as she struggles to unfold a pushchair, definitely isn't. And yet most cyclists seem to struggle with this degree of hazard perception.

Are the respondants who say cyclists 'ride too fast' the same ones who complain that they hold up traffic by being too slow?

And, are you seriously claiming that cyclists overtake stopped buses faster than cars do?

And I'm fine with fining cyclists who jump reds as long as you also fine motorists who do so (as they do in large numbers, in fact in almost the same proportion as cyclists do - just go watch any junction and count the amber gamblers).

The reality is that cyclists do exactly what motorists do - they break the rules where they can get away with it. Are you proposing to introduce traffic light cameras and then specifically _ignore_ motorist red jumping? Othwerwise why emphasise cyclists, when motorists would be caught in similar numbers.

posted by FluffyKittenofT... [668 posts]
2nd December 2013 - 23:44

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GoingRoundInCycles wrote:

According to the survey:

7% cycle every day 72 cyclists
5% at least once per week 54 cyclists
4% at least once per month 41 cyclists
9% less than once per month 90 cyclists
74% never cycle 742 cyclists

So that's 72 actual cyclists, then? Maybe some of the 54, at most. But going round the park once a month doesn't qualify, methinks.

So not a very large sample, really.

Everyone can use whatever definition they prefer, of course, but to me what matters is whether someone uses a bike as their primary, practical, means of transport. Regardless of whether they've ever heard of Wiggo, Froome and whatever-the-hell they are called. Interest in cycling as sport is another thing entirely.

If their main, day-to-day means of transport is a car, they are likely to think as a motorist.

posted by FluffyKittenofT... [668 posts]
2nd December 2013 - 23:52

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The survey is flawed as the numbers of people involved who are cyclists were so small as others have commented. I was on my bike today and there didn't seem to be any fewer than on two wheels than usual considering the time of year.

There are some crap drivers around, but not as many as there used to be. Cycling in London in the 80s and 90s was far more dangerous.

OldRidgeback

posted by OldRidgeback [2195 posts]
3rd December 2013 - 0:26

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Good point OldRidgeback I always enjoy riding around London when I'm back there these days it's a massive improvement on what it used to be like when I commuted there in the 90s and a waay better and more bike aware place to ride than than any other big UK city I've ridden in.

Not to say of course that it couldn't be better.

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posted by Tony Farrelly [4136 posts]
3rd December 2013 - 12:58

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FluffyKittenofTindalos wrote:
Neil753 wrote:

And, frankly, many cyclists do indeed ride too fast in town.
Full gas up Highgate Hill is fine, but blasting past a stopped bus at a speed that would kill a child whose grip has been momentarily lost by its mother, as she struggles to unfold a pushchair, definitely isn't. And yet most cyclists seem to struggle with this degree of hazard perception.

Are the respondants who say cyclists 'ride too fast' the same ones who complain that they hold up traffic by being too slow?

And, are you seriously claiming that cyclists overtake stopped buses faster than cars do?.


Maybe they are, maybe they're not; who knows? We both know that most minor accidents, where the cyclist is at fault, occur because the cyclist is travelling too fast, and many of these accidents occur in urban areas.

With regards to the buses, take any video showing a cyclist passing a large stationary vehicle, and you'll see what I mean. Either cyclists have forgotten everything they were taught in their cycling proficiency test, or else they regard such risks as an occupational hazard.

And it's not just buses either; passing any vehicle, where there is a chance of a pedestrian stepping out in front of you, needs to be passed at a speed slow enough to stop, a concept that many cyclists (and drivers) fail to understand.

"Hey..... Let's be visible out there."

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posted by Neil753 [451 posts]
3rd December 2013 - 13:50

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