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A balanced report; worth a watch: The Guardian - Should you wear a bike helmet?

 

76 comments

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StraelGuy [1513 posts] 3 months ago
3 likes

Interesting watch, thanks.

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OldRidgeback [2978 posts] 3 months ago
1 like

A very well presented video. Maybe instead of arguing (endlessly) over helmets on this website, we should just refer everyone to the clip.

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Mungecrundle [1062 posts] 3 months ago
8 likes

This is the 3rd helmet in some 30 years that I have smashed, and I am quite willing to testify that each helmet went to it's demise whilst saving me from considerable head injury. The first was on an MTB going down steps, over the handle bars and onto the top edge of a brick wall, that one pretty much split across the top. The second was downhill in the rain, sliding out and colliding with the curb, that was mostly abrasions. The one pictured was from last years Tour of Cambridge. I overlapped a wheel whilst racing and went down very heavily head first at about 25mph. Avoided a trip to A&E but did actually suffer the mythical rotational neck injury which took a few weeks to settle.

This last crash was the one that convinced me to NOT wear a helmet for my daily commute. Not because it failed to protect my head, not because I got a neck strain, but because it happened while I was taking risks. After the crash I got checked out by the paramedics and continued. I slowed right down partly because my chance of qualifying was out the window, partly because I had lost a fair bit of skin elsewhere but mostly because I did not want to risk crashing again with a damaged lid. I realised that wearing a helmet causes me to ride in a more aggressive manner, however sub-conscious that may be. Each of my helmet destroying crashes have been self inflicted whilst partaking in risky behaviour.

Then you get into the whole statistics and studies where it is actually very difficult to find convincing real world evidence either for or against helmets. After as much research as is reasonable without becoming obsessed my personal conclusion is that a helmet can save you from some injuries in some circumstances, and I'm going to stick with my personal anecdata on that one. However what does come through consistently is that wearing a helmet is not a one sided equation, as in you may as well wear one because there is no downside. There is plenty of evidence about increase in personal risk taking and in the way that other road users treat a helmeted v non helmeted rider and that is even before you get into the whole mandatory helmets reducing cycle usage and the wider impact on public health scenario.

Bottom line is that commuting round town or pootling about on a bicycle is a low risk activity that should not and does not require personal safety equipment to reduce risk to an acceptable level. There is no evidence that cycle helmets are car proof or prevent fatalities should a lorry be driven over your body. Conversely, part of the fun of cycling for me at least is in pushing my cardiovascular limits and riding as fast as I can or seeking an endorphine rush. This means that riding in a group (racing, training or even the weekly club ride), time trialling, MTB where any level of technical ability is required (I have very little), I shall be strapping my helmet on and you had best be aware that I may well be a little more psycopathic whilst wearing it.

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rjfrussell [486 posts] 3 months ago
2 likes

Crashed for first time yesterday.  Not a biggie.  Lost the rear end on gravel, skidded, fell.  Cuts and bruises on ankle, knee, hip, elbow, shoulder.  And banged the side of my head pretty hard.  Very glad I had my helmet on.  Anecdote, rather that proper evidence, but there you go.

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tugglesthegreat [102 posts] 3 months ago
2 likes

The first helmet I had was a bell hard shell.  A heavy fall mountainbiking in the Pyrennes shattered the inside and sent it to the bin.  I've been pro helmets ever since.

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HowardR [233 posts] 3 months ago
1 like

I've worn a helmet (whilst cycling) since I went sumersaulting over the bonnet of a twunt guided car. On that occasion I wasn't wearing a helmet & two of the few things I remembered about the incident was seeing the bonnet & then the road rushing towards me - and whishing so very much that I was wearing some (any!) sort of head protection.

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Leviathan [3057 posts] 3 months ago
4 likes

Munge and RJ, some very reasonable  responses there. Though some might say ancedote is not evidence; well weather isn't climate, but mass up the data and they become one and the same. We can't do double blind tests by getting people to crash without a helmet. I've had some falls on ice, birdshit and kerbs which appeared from nowhere (another story; poor infrastructure, cycle lane moving from road to pavement,) and mostly come down on my substantial arse/hip, but just once I scraped my temple on the floor. No harm to me, but helmet was scratched, but saved me a big headache.

I am sure some of the naysayers just think they have a superior level of skill that protects them. I just wish that half the energy some people put into debating the subject on this site was put into actual cycling and the world would be a better place.

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Kapelmuur [436 posts] 3 months ago
7 likes

I have crashed while not wearing a helmet, sadly I can't add to the debate as all I remember is leaving home and then waking up in A&E.

 

 

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Podc [107 posts] 3 months ago
3 likes

It's worth remembering that none of the people who have lost their lives after being involved in an accident whilst riding bikes and wearing a helmet, are able to add their anecdata to these discussions.

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Drinfinity [94 posts] 3 months ago
1 like
Podc wrote:

It's worth remembering that none of the people who have lost their lives after being involved in an accident whilst riding bikes and not wearing a helmet, are able to add their anecdata to these discussions.

ftfy

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BehindTheBikesheds [2292 posts] 3 months ago
2 likes
Mungecrundle wrote:

This is the 3rd helmet in some 30 years that I have smashed, and I am quite willing to testify that each helmet went to it's demise whilst saving me from considerable head injury. The first was on an MTB going down steps, over the handle bars and onto the top edge of a brick wall, that one pretty much split across the top. The second was downhill in the rain, sliding out and colliding with the curb, that was mostly abrasions. The one pictured was from last years Tour of Cambridge. I overlapped a wheel whilst racing and went down very heavily head first at about 25mph. Avoided a trip to A&E but did actually suffer the mythical rotational neck injury which took a few weeks to settle.

This last crash was the one that convinced me to NOT wear a helmet for my daily commute. Not because it failed to protect my head, not because I got a neck strain, but because it happened while I was taking risks. After the crash I got checked out by the paramedics and continued. I slowed right down partly because my chance of qualifying was out the window, partly because I had lost a fair bit of skin elsewhere but mostly because I did not want to risk crashing again with a damaged lid. I realised that wearing a helmet causes me to ride in a more aggressive manner, however sub-conscious that may be. Each of my helmet destroying crashes have been self inflicted whilst partaking in risky behaviour.

Then you get into the whole statistics and studies where it is actually very difficult to find convincing real world evidence either for or against helmets. After as much research as is reasonable without becoming obsessed my personal conclusion is that a helmet can save you from some injuries in some circumstances, and I'm going to stick with my personal anecdata on that one. However what does come through consistently is that wearing a helmet is not a one sided equation, as in you may as well wear one because there is no downside. There is plenty of evidence about increase in personal risk taking and in the way that other road users treat a helmeted v non helmeted rider and that is even before you get into the whole mandatory helmets reducing cycle usage and the wider impact on public health scenario.

Bottom line is that commuting round town or pootling about on a bicycle is a low risk activity that should not and does not require personal safety equipment to reduce risk to an acceptable level. There is no evidence that cycle helmets are car proof or prevent fatalities should a lorry be driven over your body. Conversely, part of the fun of cycling for me at least is in pushing my cardiovascular limits and riding as fast as I can or seeking an endorphine rush. This means that riding in a group (racing, training or even the weekly club ride), time trialling, MTB where any level of technical ability is required (I have very little), I shall be strapping my helmet on and you had best be aware that I may well be a little more psycopathic whilst wearing it.

you made valid points re your own behaviour and yet fly in the face of what you beleive to be so by wearing a helmet for the riskier activity which by definition increases that risk which in turn increases the chance of any injury including one to the head.

By wearing a helmet and indeed that by your co-riders too you are increasing the chances of a spill,  then if you add in the inability of a helmet in best case lab controlled enviroment to actually reduce the forces enough in higher speed/riskier activities to even prevent a basic consussion and with a split/broken helmet will have absorbed a tiny fraction of the forces involved (even less than at slower commuting speeds) I simply don't understand why you would continue to wear one for what you to percieve to be the riskier activity when by doing so you only make matters worse?

There is no logic in what you've done especially since you identified the behaviour pattern and will no doubt know the limitations of the helmets you posessed.

I am able to max myself out on a ride and have done so hundreds if not thousands of times over 30 years, have I crashed/come off a few times of my own doing, yes, would a helmet have made a positive difference in those crashes and over the circa 185,000 miles I've done, not one bit. For me my anecdata says I wouldn't be writing this now. I see no benefit of wearing and even less so in higher risk activities and for those that are easily influenced (like children) because this simply makes those scenarios even more riskier as you already identified.

best of luck.

 

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Zeesy [1 post] 3 months ago
0 likes

I couldn't agree more with those who have written in supporting the use of helmets. I watched the video, which tries to give a balanced view. I feel some things are so self-evident that they do not require evidence! In any type of impact to the head, the better protected the head the less severe or absent the head injury. Accidents do not occur only in road traffic situations. A fall can occur while swerving, sneezing or failing to see an obstruction. In such a situation I know I'd rather be with than without a helmet!

Many years ago I watched on a children's programme a watermerlon being dropped on the floor from a height and spattering all over the place. Another melon was dropped from the same height inside a cycle helmet. It came out intact!

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don simon [2530 posts] 3 months ago
4 likes

Chris Boardman speaks sense.

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hawkinspeter [2369 posts] 3 months ago
7 likes
Zeesy wrote:

I couldn't agree more with those who have written in supporting the use of helmets. I watched the video, which tries to give a balanced view. I feel some things are so self-evident that they do not require evidence! In any type of impact to the head, the better protected the head the less severe or absent the head injury. Accidents do not occur only in road traffic situations. A fall can occur while swerving, sneezing or failing to see an obstruction. In such a situation I know I'd rather be with than without a helmet!

Many years ago I watched on a children's programme a watermerlon being dropped on the floor from a height and spattering all over the place. Another melon was dropped from the same height inside a cycle helmet. It came out intact!

Do you wear one whilst walking?

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Kapelmuur [436 posts] 3 months ago
1 like
hawkinspeter wrote:
Zeesy wrote:

I couldn't agree more with those who have written in supporting the use of helmets. I watched the video, which tries to give a balanced view. I feel some things are so self-evident that they do not require evidence! In any type of impact to the head, the better protected the head the less severe or absent the head injury. Accidents do not occur only in road traffic situations. A fall can occur while swerving, sneezing or failing to see an obstruction. In such a situation I know I'd rather be with than without a helmet!

Many years ago I watched on a children's programme a watermerlon being dropped on the floor from a height and spattering all over the place. Another melon was dropped from the same height inside a cycle helmet. It came out intact!

Do you wear one whilst walking?

 

I'd be tempted to wear one while walking if I could walk at the speed I cycle.   

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ConcordeCX [860 posts] 3 months ago
8 likes
hawkinspeter wrote:
Zeesy wrote:

I couldn't agree more with those who have written in supporting the use of helmets. I watched the video, which tries to give a balanced view. I feel some things are so self-evident that they do not require evidence! In any type of impact to the head, the better protected the head the less severe or absent the head injury. Accidents do not occur only in road traffic situations. A fall can occur while swerving, sneezing or failing to see an obstruction. In such a situation I know I'd rather be with than without a helmet!

Many years ago I watched on a children's programme a watermerlon being dropped on the floor from a height and spattering all over the place. Another melon was dropped from the same height inside a cycle helmet. It came out intact!

Do you wear one whilst walking?

a watermelon?

 

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hawkinspeter [2369 posts] 3 months ago
11 likes
ConcordeCX wrote:
hawkinspeter wrote:
Zeesy wrote:

I couldn't agree more with those who have written in supporting the use of helmets. I watched the video, which tries to give a balanced view. I feel some things are so self-evident that they do not require evidence! In any type of impact to the head, the better protected the head the less severe or absent the head injury. Accidents do not occur only in road traffic situations. A fall can occur while swerving, sneezing or failing to see an obstruction. In such a situation I know I'd rather be with than without a helmet!

Many years ago I watched on a children's programme a watermerlon being dropped on the floor from a height and spattering all over the place. Another melon was dropped from the same height inside a cycle helmet. It came out intact!

Do you wear one whilst walking?

a watermelon?

No one cared who I was, until I put on the mask.

 

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Jetmans Dad [58 posts] 3 months ago
6 likes
Zeesy wrote:

I couldn't agree more with those who have written in supporting the use of helmets. I watched the video, which tries to give a balanced view. I feel some things are so self-evident that they do not require evidence! In any type of impact to the head, the better protected the head the less severe or absent the head injury. Accidents do not occur only in road traffic situations. A fall can occur while swerving, sneezing or failing to see an obstruction. In such a situation I know I'd rather be with than without a helmet!

Many years ago I watched on a children's programme a watermerlon being dropped on the floor from a height and spattering all over the place. Another melon was dropped from the same height inside a cycle helmet. It came out intact!

Very few people (even on here) fundamentally disagree that a helmet provides some protection for your head, but as the video points out, that isn't the only issue. There is also not only your own behaviour whilst wearing one (do you instinctively take more risks because you feel more protected?) but also the behaviour of other road users (do they take more risks around you because you look more protected?). 

If wearing a helmet makes it 10% less likely that I will suffer a serious head injury if I have an accident but 20% more likely that I will have an accident, should I wear one?

There is also the fact that there is safety in numbers ... the more people are out riding bicycles, the safer those riders are (according to the evidence from countries like The Netherlands and Denmark), and making helmet use compulsory reduces the number of people out riding bicycles (according to evidence from countries like Australia). 

All those factors (and others) combined to make this a topic that is not as self-evident as you think it is, by any metric, and why we need to look at all the evidence and then make the right choices based on it. 

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froze [73 posts] 3 months ago
2 likes

Well I've always said buy a helmet based on how much you think your head is worth, if you think your brains are worth nothing then don't bother spending money on a helmet.  I also use to hear the excuse that a helmet weighed too much to be worn, to which I replied that they're too weak to ride a bike if they can't hold a helmet on their head.

I can't see the video link for some reason, but I disagree with the assumption you ride safer with your helmet off, most people where I live who ride their bikes like complete idiots and disregard for safety or for any laws on the street with cars aren't wearing helmets!  Not saying that I've never seen helmet riders ride like that, but mostly is the bareheaded boneheads riding like that.  This has been my observation with over 40 years of watching cyclists ride.

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hawkinspeter [2369 posts] 3 months ago
9 likes
froze wrote:

Well I've always said buy a helmet based on how much you think your head is worth, if you think your brains are worth nothing then don't bother spending money on a helmet.  I also use to hear the excuse that a helmet weighed too much to be worn, to which I replied that they're too weak to ride a bike if they can't hold a helmet on their head.

I can't see the video link for some reason, but I disagree with the assumption you ride safer with your helmet off, most people where I live who ride their bikes like complete idiots and disregard for safety or for any laws on the street with cars aren't wearing helmets!  Not saying that I've never seen helmet riders ride like that, but mostly is the bareheaded boneheads riding like that.  This has been my observation with over 40 years of watching cyclists ride.

You should stop saying that.

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kevvjj [422 posts] 3 months ago
9 likes
froze wrote:

Well I've always said buy a helmet based on how much you think your head is worth, if you think your brains are worth nothing then don't bother spending money on a helmet.  I also use to hear the excuse that a helmet weighed too much to be worn, to which I replied that they're too weak to ride a bike if they can't hold a helmet on their head.

I can't see the video link for some reason, but I disagree with the assumption you ride safer with your helmet off, most people where I live who ride their bikes like complete idiots and disregard for safety or for any laws on the street with cars aren't wearing helmets!  Not saying that I've never seen helmet riders ride like that, but mostly is the bareheaded boneheads riding like that.  This has been my observation with over 40 years of watching cyclists ride.

Drivel. Anecdotal. Generalisations. Drivel. Uninformed opinion. Drivel.

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Giles Pargiter [76 posts] 3 months ago
6 likes

Never mind that riding in motor vehicles is about five times more more dangerous for your head than cycling (or walking). It has not even been mentioned that getting in or out of the bath or shower is about nine times more dangerous for your head. People should definitely always wear helmets in the bathroom

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ConcordeCX [860 posts] 3 months ago
7 likes
Zeesy wrote:

I couldn't agree more with those who have written in supporting the use of helmets. I watched the video, which tries to give a balanced view. I feel some things are so self-evident that they do not require evidence! In any type of impact to the head, the better protected the head the less severe or absent the head injury. Accidents do not occur only in road traffic situations. A fall can occur while swerving, sneezing or failing to see an obstruction. In such a situation I know I'd rather be with than without a helmet!

Many years ago I watched on a children's programme a watermerlon being dropped on the floor from a height and spattering all over the place. Another melon was dropped from the same height inside a cycle helmet. It came out intact!

if you're going to come on here and claim that some things are so self-evident that they don't need evidence, then you'll have to provide some evidence to support that claim rather than say you just feel it. Otherwise nobody's going to respect anything you have to say about anything. Just common sense, innit?

 

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BehindTheBikesheds [2292 posts] 3 months ago
4 likes
ConcordeCX wrote:
Zeesy wrote:

I couldn't agree more with those who have written in supporting the use of helmets. I watched the video, which tries to give a balanced view. I feel some things are so self-evident that they do not require evidence! In any type of impact to the head, the better protected the head the less severe or absent the head injury. Accidents do not occur only in road traffic situations. A fall can occur while swerving, sneezing or failing to see an obstruction. In such a situation I know I'd rather be with than without a helmet!

Many years ago I watched on a children's programme a watermerlon being dropped on the floor from a height and spattering all over the place. Another melon was dropped from the same height inside a cycle helmet. It came out intact!

if you're going to come on here and claim that some things are so self-evident that they don't need evidence, then you'll have to provide some evidence to support that claim rather than say you just feel it. Otherwise nobody's going to respect anything you have to say about anything. Just common sense, innit?

That's a paddlin'

I also feel a graph coming on ...

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RMurphy195 [147 posts] 3 months ago
0 likes
Podc wrote:

It's worth remembering that none of the people who have lost their lives after being involved in an accident whilst riding bikes and wearing a helmet, are able to add their anecdata to these discussions.

It's also worth remembering that none of the people who have lost their lives after being involved in an accident whilst riding bikes and NOT wearing a helmet, are able to add their anecdata to these discussions either.

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JF69 [31 posts] 3 months ago
1 like
RMurphy195 wrote:
Podc wrote:

It's worth remembering that none of the people who have lost their lives after being involved in an accident whilst riding bikes and wearing a helmet, are able to add their anecdata to these discussions.

It's also worth remembering that none of the people who have lost their lives after being involved in an accident whilst riding bikes and NOT wearing a helmet, are able to add their anecdata to these discussions either.

 

The former scenario is of course more indicative & produces more easily relevant data than the latter of course.

 

Those who lost their lives because of an accident even though they wore a helmet died....the cause of death is of little relevance. The helmet did not save them. It's data/statistics that are automatically included in any research on cycle helmet effectiveness.

Those who lost their lives because of an accident but weren't wearing a helmet died....but the cause of death is of great importance as opposed to the first scenario before even considering them for inclusion in the same research on cycle helmet effectiveness (eg: death even though no injury to head or neck area).
If the injury leading to death could not be prevented by wearing a helmet it's data that makes the case for the limited protection (if at all) of wearing a helmet.
If the injury leading to death could in theory be prevented by wearing a helmet, further studies are needed before deciding whether this data is valid for inclusion in conclusions advocating for helmet use. Why? The same helmet could be a contributing factor leading to the death of the helmet user, for a variety of reasons.

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brooksby [3484 posts] 3 months ago
1 like

I think I ride more cautiously when I'm not wearing a helmet.

When I first started not wearing a helmet, I was very very much conscious of not having a big lump of plastic on my head and it made me feel much more vulnerable (although more comfortable, and cooler (in a temperature sense: I'll never be cool in a social sense )), but I got used to it.

Now, on the occasions I have worn a helmet (a couple of times over the winter, when there looked to be ice), I've actually felt awkward and self-conscious about the big lump of plastic on my head.

I like not having to lug it around when I'm not actually on the bike, too.

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bogbrush [46 posts] 3 months ago
0 likes
froze wrote:

I can't see the video link for some reason, but I disagree with the assumption you ride safer with your helmet off, most people where I live who ride their bikes like complete idiots and disregard for safety or for any laws on the street with cars aren't wearing helmets!  Not saying that I've never seen helmet riders ride like that, but mostly is the bareheaded boneheads riding like that.  This has been my observation with over 40 years of watching cyclists ride.

Hi Froze

I think that without you being able to see the video, you may have misunderstood what the results of the study suggested.

The study suggests that if you take two otherwise similar sets of people, put helmets on one and don't give helmets to the other, then those who are wearing helmets will take more risks.

What the study does not show (and is not designed to show), is that people who choose to wear a helmet while cycling are people who take more risks.  

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bikeman01 [59 posts] 3 months ago
0 likes
Mungecrundle wrote:

This last crash was the one that convinced me to NOT wear a helmet for my daily commute. Not because it failed to protect my head, not because I got a neck strain, but because it happened while I was taking risks. After the crash I got checked out by the paramedics and continued. I slowed right down partly because my chance of qualifying was out the window, partly because I had lost a fair bit of skin elsewhere but mostly because I did not want to risk crashing again with a damaged lid. I realised that wearing a helmet causes me to ride in a more aggressive manner, however sub-conscious that may be. Each of my helmet destroying crashes have been self inflicted whilst partaking in risky behaviour.

For many years I rode a motorbike and I too shared your view that that when I felt 'safe' in my leathers and boots I rode more wrecklessly that when I felt vulnerable in Jeans & trainers. 

However I eventually realised that my safety wasn't one directional and I couldn't control others behavour. As such I realised that I could just as easily have an accident even when I drove less wrecklessly.

As such it was preferable to wear safety gear.

Seeing that helmets obviously reduce head injuries on impact I'd say it is foolish not to wear one.

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Natrix [46 posts] 3 months ago
1 like
bikeman01 wrote:

Seeing that helmets obviously reduce head injuries on impact I'd say it is foolish not to wear one.

 

But bike helmets make other road users act more recklessly towards you as a cyclist if you are wearing a helmet..............

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