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Bicycle Love Story: Rediscovering the Joy of a Two-Wheeled Life

6 Apr

This is another popular post from last year submitted by a reader. I heard from a lot of people who really loved the story of Matt riding with his kids. Do you have a similar story? Send it to moregardenslesscars@gmail.com. More details here.

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My wife and I have two-year-old twins. We refer to the first 14 months of their lives as “The Time.”

I loved biking around Erie when I was in high school. As soon as the weather turned each spring, I’d be out riding and exploring, doing 20, 30, 40 miles each trip. I loved it; hopping on my bicycle and just riding until the sun went down was the best way to spend those long summer days.

I went away to college in ’96 and promptly forgot about bicycling. My old bike was stolen from my mother’s garage sometime during my sophomore year and I didn’t really care.

A few years later, after I’d moved to Pittsburgh, a good friend bought a shiny new mountain bike. I asked him what he planned to do with his old one and got a blank stare, so I offered a new wireless keyboard/mouse combo as a trade. The bike was immediately relegated to the basement where it sat completely unused, but never forgotten, for years.

I needed to replace the brakes and rotors on our car last June (right during the hardest part of “The Time”). It’s an easy, simple job, and one I’ve done many times. I planned it to coincide with naptime to minimize the time my wife was on her own with the little people.

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Bicycle Love Story Redux: Bessie, My First Real Relationship

5 Apr

This is the first in a series of Bicycle Love Stories that have been submitted by readers and riders. To find out how to submit your own Bicycle Love Story, click here.

We met on Craigslist. I had looked at so many other shiny faces, with various reasons why they were newly single. Their past sig-o just didn’t have time, found out s/he had gotten someone pregnant and had to set “priorities”, found out they were moving to Burma. I got a little sad looking for you. So many people had tried to find love here and, in the end, just wanted to try to re-coup some of their “losses.” You were so blue in your picture, shiny and shared my interests in soul music and b-movies. Wait, that was someone else.

First Date

I called your ex-boyfriend’s wife about you. I didn’t have a car, so I asked if she could bring you over for our first date. She said yes, but only if I paid for the gas money. You showed up, with your original seat cover, disintegrating bar tape, and water bottle–all from 1987, the year you were born. Most people lose something of themselves over the course of two decades. I was in grad school at the time, and had trouble keeping track of my feet let alone my water bottle.

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Bike Parking and Plants: Everywhere For Everyone

3 Feb

I just found a new website tonight called Materialicious. It’s about architecture and design. Apparently you can post anything from their site on your blog so I will thank them (THANKS!) for that and allow some of their collected work show you some of my dreams for the present and future (as soon as the next five seconds!).

So I want this, everywhere. Just perfect:

I love plants and I love bikes and I like when more plants mean more bikes and more bikes mean more plants as they do with this clever invention that was nominated for the The Design Museum’s ‘Design of the Year 2010’.

PlantLock – “provides attractive & secure bicycle parking in the home garden, at work and in public places.”

Great! I need bike parking everywhere I go and I want plants everywhere I am.

These could line city streets all over. The could also be on residential streets where bicycle parking is most often absent. Clean up the air with more plants and provide parking everywhere so biking anywhere will be an option for everyone.

Go to Philly: Go Directly to Philly

23 Oct

Yes! Go to this if you’re anywhere near Philly on Halloween weekend! The Philly Bike Expo Fashion Show is going to make your fall exquisite!

I’m sharing this by way of my dashing and talented roommate, the proprietress of the cycling fashion line Spokepunchers.

This is where you’ll want to be if you suddenly come into some surprise money and want to step up your bicycle ride and gear with some handmade and hand-crafted goods.

My Beautiful New Bicycle’s Internet Debut

5 Oct

Now my bicycle is just over a month old and ready for her internet debut! Photos by the inimitable Elly Blue.

What Kind of Bike is That!

People ask me all the time, usually with an exclamation instead of a question mark. It’s the “Live 2” by Globe which is a new brand made by Specialized and tailored to people who ride for transportation.

This bike is not for racing, but it is perfect for life. That’s what I need anyway. I need to go to work, to the grocery store, to outreach events for my job, and I need to carry a bunch of stuff with me because I don’t drive Ever and this is my way to get around.

Hauling Supplies to Bikestravaganza!

See the giant silver circle in the middle of the back wheel? That’s my fancy 8-speed internal hub. That means that all of gears and everything I need to keep moving is contained INSIDE! Maybe, like me at first, you’d think, who cares about that?

I am telling you that it might be one of the greatest inventions since the bicycle

This means that you don’t have any messy greasy gears on the outside and your gears won’t get mucked up in the rain or snow. So if you depend on your bicycle to get you places even when the weather is undesirable, this is the ticket. (Not the only ticket, but the only one for me!)

The other incredibly wonderful part is that you can shift anytime. You don’t have to be moving! If you’re stopped at a stop light in a hard gear, you can switch back to a much easier gear for starting again when the light turns green.

I’m not kidding, friends, this has revolutionized my bicycle riding experience.

The fenders and the rack are integrated into the bicycle frame and so it’s possible to ride in the rain without getting muddy and while easily carrying tons of stuff.

This is my favorite of the five bikes I’ve owned since I made the bicycle my main form of transportation in 2006.

PS: Before bicycles I used public transportation and my feet because I lived in DC and Chicago and made my home in places with stellar public transit so I would never have to own a car. It was a great time and having the resources of public transit is essential to any city that wants to thrive and not be choked by motor vehicle traffic, air, and noise pollution.

But now I’m happy to make my own schedule and get there as fast or slow as I like.

Usually it’s pretty slow because I’m a meandering kind of gal and I like to take my time. Doesn’t mean that my time is less important than motor vehicle users, I just make my plans accordingly. And since I like my transportation, I don’t mind spending time riding slowly through the city getting where I need or want to go.

I love you bicycle!

Classing Up Your Bicycle: The U-lock Cozy

1 Oct

When I decided that I was going to get a chocolate brown Globe bicycle (photos forthcoming), I immediately contacted my lovely old roommate Guy and commissioned him to knit me a U-lock cozy to protect my beautiful bicycle from scratches.

U-lock by Guy, Photo by Elly Blue.

Hopefully he’ll get his etsy site going soon, through the fog of grad school applications, because people are asking me where to get them nearly every day. Also, if you know how to knit, this is an excellent and fast DIY project and makes a great gift for the special bicyclist(s) in your life.

I Don’t Know How You Could Have Missed This: Bikestravaganza

29 Sep

Just in case you haven’t found out about Bikestravaganza somehow, you have one last chance to see this bike advocacy tour.

Presented by bicycle advocates from Portland, Elly Blue and Joe Biel will be in Pittsburgh tonight discussing how Portland got to the bicycle mecca-ish place it is today.

What is this “Bikestravaganza”, you might be asking?

The Bikestravaganza Tour is an interactive, multimedia, DIY bike summit roadshow!

You can find out more details on the Bike Pittsburgh blog, and also on the official site for Bikestravaganza: Off the Chainring Tour.

This awesome event is sponsored by Bike Pittsburgh — a non-profit membership organization working to make Pittsburgh a safer place to ride bicycles; by the Carnegie Library — a free book and media lending organization; and the Over the Bar (OTB) Cafe.

The show starts around 6:15 in Classroom A of the Carnegie Library in Oakland and then we’ll ride our bicycles together to OTB to continue the discussion in a more relaxed atmosphere with food and drink specials.

Come on out!

Bicyclists are Already Overpaying for Roads

28 Sep

Why an additional road tax for bicyclists would be unfair

I’m posting this excellent article from Grist for a couple of reasons:

1. It was written by my friend and she’s smart and awesome.

2. It is smart and awesome and provides us with information that I think has been largely lacking from the debate, at least on my side of things.

3. Elly Blue is giving a presentation in Pittsburgh tomorrow night that is sponsored by Bike Pittsburgh and the Carnegie Library with a lively after-party at OTB.

4. I don’t want you to miss this part:

The average driver travels 10,000 miles in town each year and contributes $324 in taxes and direct fees. The cost to the public, including direct costs and externalities, is a whopping $3,360.

On the opposite pole, someone who exclusively bikes may go 3,000 miles in a year, contribute $300 annually in taxes, and costs the public only $36, making for a profit of $264. To balance the road budget, we need 12 people commuting by bicycle for each person who commutes by car.

And now:

“Should cyclists pay a road tax?”

That was printed on the side of one of Portland, Ore.’s MAX light rail trains as it sailed back and forth across the region for six months in 2009.

The question was designed to provoke, and it did. “We already do!” I would grumble every time I saw it.

It’s true. And, fair being fair, we overpay.

Say you own a car. You’re shelling out an average of $9,519 this year, according to the American Automobile Association (most other estimates are higher). Some of those costs — a percentage of gas, registration, licensing, and tolls — go directly to pay for roads. And it hurts. You doubtless feel every penny.

The thing is, that money only pays for freeways and highways. Or it mostly pays for them — a hefty chunk of change for these incredibly expensive, high maintenance thoroughfares still comes from the general fund.

Local roads, where you most likely do the bulk of your daily bicycling, are a different story. The cost of building, maintaining, and managing traffic on these local roads adds up to about 6 cents per mile for each motor vehicle. The cost contributed to these roads by the drivers of these motor vehicles through direct user fees? 0.7 cents per mile. The rest comes out of the general tax fund.

This means that anyone who owns a home, rents, purchases taxable goods, collects taxable income, or runs a business also pays for the roads. If you don’t drive a car, even for some trips, you are subsidizing those who do — by a lot. The best primer on this is economist Todd Litman’s highly readable 2004 report “Whose Roads.” (It’s also the source for most of the figures in this column. Download the PDF here). A journalist recently crunched the numbers in Seattle and found the discrepancy in 2010 to be as wide as ever.

There are many reasons for cities to encourage bicycling, and the economic argument is one of the best. Every time somebody gets on a bicycle instead of in a car, the city saves money. The cost of road maintenance is averaged at 5.6 cents per mile per motor vehicle. Add the so-called external costs of parking (10 cents), crashes (8 cents), congestion (4 cents), and land costs and that’s another 28 cents per mile! Meanwhile, for slower, lighter, smaller bicycles, the externalities add up to one meager cent per mile.

The average driver travels 10,000 miles in town each year and contributes $324 in taxes and direct fees. The cost to the public, including direct costs and externalities, is a whopping $3,360.

On the opposite pole, someone who exclusively bikes may go 3,000 miles in a year, contribute $300 annually in taxes, and costs the public only $36, making for a profit of $264. To balance the road budget, we need 12 people commuting by bicycle for each person who commutes by car.

The numbers continue to be astonishing when you consider the cost of bicycle infrastructure. It consists mainly of paint and is dirt cheap by comparison to any other sort of transportation project. Portland has transformed itself into a bicycling mecca while allocating less than 1 percent of its transportation budget to bikes each year — with critics fighting tooth and nail against every penny spent.

In tight economic times, when it’s hard to scrape together the cash to fill potholes, even this low level of bicycle spending is often put on hold. But what if, instead, the road tax overpaid by bicyclists were invested into making city streets safer, more comfortable, and more convenient for bicycling? New York City has been doing just that, resulting in tens of thousands of people taking to the streets on two wheels and — if those people would otherwise be making those trips by car — saving the city a whole hell of a lot of cash.

Yet the myth of bicyclists as freeloaders is gaining ground. Proposals for bicycle registration schemes crop up every few months, usually from conservative politicians looking for someone to blame, but also at times from well-meaning bicycle advocates. Never mind that no such program has ever managed to pay for its own administrative costs. Nothing is accomplished by putting up barriers to active transportation. Instead, these barriers need to be removed.

Cities — and taxpayers — can’t afford not to invest in bicycling.

Who are the Invisible Cyclists?

24 Sep

When I was at a Bike Advocacy retreat a couple of weeks ago I learned about a program set up by the LA County Bike Coalition that addresses Latino cyclists that are largely absent from the traditional view of cyclists. This program provides them with supplies, skills, and knowledge. It looks like a cool and smart idea. This helpful program is called Invisible Cyclists.

But there is a different type of Invisible Cyclists, I’ve come to find, and those are the every day people that ride their bike and obey the traffic laws.

Photo by the lovely Elly Blue

Nearly every time I talk to someone who drives cars exclusively, I am immediately barraged with complaints about those cyclists that “blow through lights”, “never stop at stop signs” and generally cause mayhem for the apparently angelic and universally law-abiding demographic of car drivers.

But I am one of those bicycle riders that DOES stop at lights, that does stop at stop signs, that yields to other road users when appropriate and no one ever seems to notice that.

I am an Invisible Cyclist for this reason.

Frequently I’ll stop at a light and then I’ll be passed by another bike rider who rides through the light — sometimes unsafely, and sometimes after checking that there are no cars coming — but the image of the law-breaking cyclist seems to be the one that hammers itself into the psyche of drivers who then lump all bicycle riders into the group of law-breakers.

And frankly, I am absolutely sick of it. I am not the same as every single person who shares my transportation choice and I do not deserve to be disrespected and cut off and run off the road in some revenge fantasy against those that do break the law.

If you’re driving a car I know that you are a different person than everyone else who drives. It’s the same with every group.

It simply does not make sense that “all cyclists” break laws, just as it doesn’t make sense to assume that all BRUNETTES or all redheads; that all gay people or all straight people, that all Christians or all Muslims act in the same way.

Substitute the word “cyclist” in the phrase “All cyclists break laws” with any other group and you’ll find out how completely stupid that is.

So next time you get in your car, pay attention to everyone on the road. I bet you’ll notice a lot more people riding bikes then you expect, and a lot more of them obeying laws than you’re used to seeing.

We’re out there and we are trying to ride safely while sharing the roads with vehicles far larger than ours.

So please drive carefully around us — each of us is one less car causing a traffic jam. We might be your neighbor, your teacher, banker, professor, a doctor, a mother, a father and son, or a Senate candidate.

Visit the Bike Pittsburgh Lounge Tomorrow for PARK(ing) Day

16 Sep

First posted on the Bike Pittsburgh blog!

Ride on over to visit the Bike Pittsburgh Lounge to see how we’ve transformed a parking space into a temporary lounge for PARK(ing) Day 2010. Whether you are going to work, on your coffee or lunch break, you cannot miss this!

What’s the Bike Pittsburgh Lounge? And what’s this “PARK(ing) Day?”

The Bike Pittsburgh Lounge is the parking spot we’ll be transforming Friday for PARK(ing) Day: the annual, one-day, global event where artists, activists, and citizens transform metered parking spots into temporary public parks.

Bike Pittsburgh staff and volunteers will be interviewing people for the very new Bike Pittsburgh Channel. We’d like to hear what you like about biking in Pittsburgh and what you would change if you suddenly had magic powers. Also, we’d just really like it if you stopped by to say hello. (We’ll only share your opinions if you want us to).

When? Where? How can I possibly take part in this wondrous affair?

Day: Friday, September 17

Time: 8:30 am – 4 pm

Where: Outside the Caliban Book Shop: 410 S. Craig St. in Oakland.

Cool! Will there be other PARK(ing) spots to see?

Yes! Pittsburgh is coming out in full force to celebrate this creative event for the third year in a row. Over 30 of your favorite Pittsburgh organizations and businesses are creating temporary parks and public spaces in every corner of the city.

But I just want to ride my bicycle, bicycle, bicycle…

You’re in luck! Industrious and illustrious Bike Pittsburgh volunteers are orchestrating a lunch-time bike tour of all (or most) of the 25+ temporary parks. Meet at the Bike Pittsburgh Lounge for the ride at 11:45 to leave at noon, and watch this site for details as they unfold. We’ll share the Google Map with you with all the sites once it is complete.

And then I want to party!

Well, you won’t want miss Car Free Fridays, South Side edition with morning and evening events. And then, there are two after-parties!

Kelly Strayhorn Theater After Party Extravaganza, 5PM – 7PM

Get your kicks en route to the Kelly Strayhorn Theater for the PARK(ing) Day After Party Extravaganza! Eat, drink, and play games with Obscure Games Pittsburgh outside and in the theater. If you feel the spirit move, then move with the sweet sound of music that fills the theater. Put the breaks on life and enjoy yourself and the company of others at KST! (5941 Penn Ave, 15206 in East Liberty)

Over the Bar (OTB) Bicycle Café Late Night Extravaganza, 7PM – 12AM

Join the folks at OTB and check out their Reduced, Reused and Recycled Bike-Friendly Pedestrian Park. The park will be interactive and fun, featuring creative installations such as bike racks made from recycled bicycle parts, interactive Bikerators (bicycle-powered generators) from Kova Enterprises, as well as several other recycled installations and a bicycle/pedestrian safety educational component. From 5 pm to 12 am, OTB will be offering the Bike Pittsburgh burger, The Bicycle Advocate, for $5 and East End Brewing’s Pedal Pale Ale for $3. (2518 East Carson Street, 15203, in Pittsburgh’s South Side)

Please, I need even more information!

01. Stay tuned to the Bike Pittsburgh blog for more info

02. Check out the Pittsburgh PARK(ing) Day site

03. Become a fan of Bike Pittsburgh on Facebook

04. Follow us on Twitter

05. And join our Flickr group to see all the fantastic footage as it pours in and add your own

06. You’ll also want to check out the website of the group that started PARK(ing) Day all just a few years ago: Rebar Group

07. Like what we’re doing? Why not support our efforts by becoming a member of Bike Pittsburgh? None of our work would be possible without our dedicated membership, join today!

Check Out This Article from Momentum: Cargo Biking: Because We All Have Stuff to Haul

9 Sep

Momentum is one of my very favorite magazines.

They write a lot of stories about practical uses for the bicycle in everyday life for everyday people.

As a lady who has never owned a car, I love the possibility and practicality of  a cargo bike.

If you’ve ever wondered how anyone could (be crazy enough to) live in the United States without a car, check out this article on cargo bikes!

Because We All Have Stuff to Haul



Momentum Sept/Oct 2010

2425

pages 24-25 Table of Contents

Tell Your Story: Meeting People While Riding Your Bicycle

29 Aug

Do you have any stories about people you’ve met while riding bicycles?

I met all of my housemates from my dream house in Washington, DC through bikes as well as dozens of other friends from dozens of other cities.

It’s so easy to people when you can stop next to them at a stop light and chat it up pleasantly for a second.

If you have a photo or story you’d like to share about some relationships you formed because of your bicycle and would like to share it, send it to moregardenslesscars at gmail.com.

That’s More Gardens, Less Cars.

Bicycle Traffic by the beach in Chicago by flickr user ifmuth. Prime location for friend mining.

Memo to Prospective Bike Commuters: Spandex is Not Necessary

26 Aug

Nearly every day when I’m hopping on my bicycle after work, I pass countless ladies and gentleman leaving their offices clad in matching spandex jerseys and padded shorts, in sporty sunglasses, in fingerless gloves.

They waddle in their padded shorts to ultra-lightweight bicycles and then move so very efficiently onto other destinations.

To all those who own “normal” clothes, please note: This is Not the Only Way to Ride a Bicycle.

I have nothing against spandex wearers personally, I appreciate anyone who rides a bicycle rather than driving a car, but many people who are not bicycle riders seem to see spandex as a barrier. It is not necessary. In the five-ish years that I’ve been riding my bicycle to work, to parties, to dates, to errands, to the grocery store, I’ve never once worn any variety of spandex.

I’d just like it if more people rode bikes (even in spandex) because then our cities would be:

  • Quieter (less honking)
  • Safer (accidents with bicycles are rare and rarely cause injury as opposed to people-car collisions = serious injury, death)
  • Sexier (let’s face it, healthy, athletic bodies are appealing and driving doesn’t work any muscles)
  • Healthier (when you use your own muscle to get around rather than an acceleration pedal, you improve your muscles and metabolism)
  • Better smelling (no exhaust)
  • Richer (bicycling infrastructure is many times more cost-effective than car infrastructure: “Portland’s entire 300 mile network of bikeways cost about the same as 1 mile of urban freeway.“)

So dust off that bicycle, no matter what it takes, or what you wear, and try to ride to the grocery store or post office next time instead of hopping in your car. We’ll all be better off for it.

Normal or dressy clothes work just fine with very minor modifications. For more information on commuting in any kind of weather, for any kind of event, I will direct you to the the very informative and stylish ladies at “Let’s Go Ride a Bike” who have covered this dilemma extensively.

BikeFest Party Tomorrow!

5 Aug

Get your body in something beautiful and get down to the Pittsburgh Opera tomorrow night for the Kickoff Party for BikeFest. Not in Pittsburgh? Get here.

Officially, this is the biggest fundraiser for Bike Pittsburgh, the dashing and appropriately named bicycle advocacy organization for the city of Pittsburgh that is both my employer and favorite non-profit group.

Unofficially this is going to be one of the most fun parties of the summer filled with eye candy in the form of people, bicycles, and prizes.

There’s a silent auction which has tons of cool items, including this painting of a burly Triplets of Belleville-style fellow churning up Pittsburgh’s Canton Ave, one of the two steepest urban streets  in the world (37% grade, yeow! You’ll also want to check out that video of the Dirty Dozen ride).

I want it!

Credit to Lou Fineberg for this strangely angled shot

This will be a superb spot for people watching, so get out your party best, get on your bicycle and ride it down to the Opera like the 700 other people we’ll be bike valeting.

There’s a ton of other auction items too like bicycles (I think we’re raffling / auctioning five), custom bags and hats, swank vacations, etc. You can find it all here or you can just show up because you want to support the only organization in Pittsburgh that works to make the city safer to bicycle for transportation for everyone from 8 to 80. Bike Pittsburgh’s only been around for 8 years now, and only had staff for five years but already has nearly 1300 members.

Since it’s a Kickoff Party, it’s gotta be starting something, right?

BikeFest! It’s the 10 day long bicycle party of Pittsburgh with over 60 rides and events planned by bicyclists for bicyclists. Check it out. Time management is going to be key to make it to all the events. Check out the calendar now and I’ll be doing some updates here and on the Bike Pittsburgh blog, so stay very tuned. Not used to riding bikes? Dust off that two wheeler, pull it out of your garage, friends, or rent one because there are plenty of beginner rides that are ideal for getting accustomed to riding in the city. This is the time to ride.

I love bicycles!

Letter to the Driver That Tried to Kill Me Today

4 Aug

(Note: This was first published on the Bike Pittsburgh messageboard and I’m cross-posting).

Dear Driver of the Green Ford F150 License plate YFW 8071,

Yes, I realize you’re probably having a bad day, but I’d like you to consider for a moment that by running me down it would cause BOTH of us to have EXTREMELY bad days.

Yes, I know it must be frustrating to not be able to pass me on Highland Avenue between Alder and Center. I would really like to give you the room, but frankly, if I get doored, it’s going to do more damage to me than the car door. Also, you may note the solid line that means it’s not safe to pass in that area. That includes me, by the way.

And yes, I know it’s annoying that I take the lane once it widens out. But get this – it’s to protect me from people like you (well, okay, maybe not people like you, since you actually TRIED to hit me. I think most other people would only do it accidentally if I was too far right when I mean to go straight through that light).

I’d like to apologize for yelling at you, but seeing as you yelled at me first… (My “Hey!” doesn’t count as it means “You are driving a 4,500lb truck, and I weigh 120lbs on a good day and if I’ve had a large lunch, so please do not squish me.”)

You have a good point that I was going “slow” although I would argue that the 15 mph I was probably doing is not the same as the 5mph you alleged. Of course, I was at about 13 miles for the day, so I’m sorry that my downhill speed approaching a red light was inadequate to you.

I realize that screaming back “I am a legal vehicle” was probably not the most eloquent thing I could have said. Nor is it likely to cause you to reconsider your intent of apparently driving your vehicle into a person. Perhaps I should have quoted from the PA vehicle code: “Every person riding a pedalcycle [this would be referring to me, by the way] upon a roadway shall be granted all of the rights and shall be subject to all of the duties applicable to the driver of a vehicle.”

Somehow though, I don’t think that would have helped you realize that you tried to hit me.

You TRIED TO HIT ME. WITH YOUR TRUCK.

Seriously? What is wrong with you?

My name is Quinn. I am the oldest of 5 children. My parents live in Florida and Toronto, and they would be pretty sad if I died. I work downtown for a local business, and I ride my bike to and from work when the weather is nice. I raised $600 for Multiple Sclerosis research this year, by riding my bike. I pay my bills, volunteer my time, and attend church regularly. I’m hosting a birthday party this weekend. There is a guy that I’m kinda fond of and hoping to catch his eye. And I could have died because you’re having a bad day and tried to hit me with your truck.

Thankfully you didn’t.

Respectfully,
Quinn.

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