This is a guest post from George Weeks. George is an urban designer at the Auckland Design Office. Prior to this he spent five years working in the Transport for London (TfL) urban design team. This article is written in a personal capacity.

Since 2014, the London Borough of Waltham Forest has brought Dutch highways design to the Anglosphere and delivered people-friendly streets to London. What could this mean for New Zealand?

In late 1960s San Francisco, urban design Professor Donald Appleyard conducted a study, the results of which showed that people who lived on lower-trafficked streets felt they had more social connections. This illustrated a wider principle: if a street no longer has to accommodate motorised through-traffic, it can accommodate many more people-focused functions.

Closing the street to through-traffic means opening up the streets to people. One country has followed these principles since the 1970s and it is the Netherlands.


Researchers at the University of Otago predict that two million New Zealanders could be obese in 2038. This pattern is repeated across the world…with very few exceptions.

The Netherlands, however, is the only European Union country where obesity is forecast to decline. This is remarkable, especially in a country where people like to eat chocolate sprinkles on bread for breakfast.

Walking and cycling for short trips is good for us. Dutch people certainly cycle a lot, at all ages. But Dutch cites are walkable too, with safe streets. Following a campaign against child road deaths in the 1970s, the Dutch approach to designing roads, streets and neighbourhoods has been to make it attractive and convenient to walk and cycle short trips. From 1972 to 2013, child road fatalities in the Netherlands fell by 98%. Dutch children are, according to UNICEF, the happiest children in the world. Importantly, Dutch people are also the world’s most satisfied car drivers.


Few motorists would assess Auckland’s rush-hour driving environment as “satisfying”, yet despite impressive cycling growth, 54 per cent of trips less than one kilometre are made by private motor vehicle. For trips of 1-2 kilometres, this rises to 83 per cent.

In addition to a propensity for driving absurdly short distances, New Zealand has the third highest OECD obesity rate, a persistently high youth suicide rate and an unenviable record on road safety. Auckland Council has declared a climate emergency: the greatest share of CO2 emissions in Auckland comes from road transport.

This begs the question: can we redesign roads and streets in existing urban areas to increase our quality of life? Can we enable significant modal shift and deliver liveable neighbourhoods? In summary, can we go Dutch?


The picture below shows a scene familiar to anyone who has experience the calmness of Dutch neighbourhood streets. Note the gentle bustle of street life, the brick paving, the tree planting, the people walking in the street, the children on their bicycles. What a remarkably civilised environment. What a healthy street.

Francis Rd, London E17

What is remarkable is that this photograph wasn’t taken in Amsterdam. Nor was it taken in Almere, Amersfoort or indeed any Dutch city. It was actually taken in the London Borough of Waltham Forest in Francis Road, one of hundreds of streets transformed by its ambitious Mini-Holland programme.

Despite the Dutch-looking bicycles, this is certainly not just a cycling scheme. It is part of a systematic approach to improve walkability, air quality, public health and economic viability. Follow this link to see how Francis Road looked in 2015. The street has been transformed. This video shows Francis Road now.


Five years on, has Mini-Holland worked? Take a look at the video.

After just one year, people in areas that have had Mini-Holland treatment are cycling by an extra 9 minutes per week AND walking an extra 32 minutes per week. When out in the streets, they are exposed to less air pollution. Traffic flow has fallen substantially (56% on 12 key routes; overall traffic reduction of 16% in first full year of scheme), freeing the streets for other uses. And people get to enjoy this for longer; life expectancy in Mini-Holland areas has increased by up to 9 months.

This mode shift has not happened anywhere else in the UK – it is a unique result.

The infographic below shows some of what has been achieved since 2014.

Progress is captured in the Waltham Forest Walking and Cycling Account, published in 2017 and 2018.

The success is also reflected in the press and the trophy cabinet. Waltham Forest Mini-Holland has won 18 major awards since 2015 and has been shortlisted for over 50. In 2018 the scheme won the “people’s choice” award at the Institute of Civil Engineers, cementing its status as London’s most popular infrastructure project. Other accolades have come from the Healthy Streets Awards, the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors, the Urban Design Group and Pineapples Award for Contribution to Place.

These achievements are reflected in how people use the streets. A primary school with over 100 bicycles parked outside it (including three cargobikes). Streets where children are free to walk, cycle, scoot and skate.  Cycle infrastructure integrated with public transport. A new project – Baby Biking – to enable people carrying their children by bicycle. A quick Twitter image search for #wfminiholland will bring up many more pictures like this.

Image: @gazlemon

Waltham Forest Council has produced a five-minute video summarising how street transformations have improved the lives of people living and working in the area. If you do nothing else, please watch the video below. The main message is that this new approach to streets has transformed people‘s quality of life.


We need to walk and cycle more; this requires safe, inclusive streets. In April 2019 the University of Otago published a major report on active travel: Turning the Tide – from Cars to Active Transport. Too much driving is harming us and the environment – a decisive mode shift is needed to favour public transport, walking and cycling.

The report makes NZ-specific recommendations to achieve this (see p. 11); these recommendations are very consistent with the delivery of Waltham Forest Mini-Holland. This has implications throughout New Zealand, both for existing urban areas and the design of new neighbourhoods. Think how many Mini-Hollands we could have here.

Waltham Forest’s experience has shown that Dutch street designs can be applied in other countries to increase walking and cycling. This requires stable resourcing, strong leadership and a willingness to engage meaningfully with local stakeholders.

We also have advantages in New Zealand. Gridded towns and cities, built at low-densities that make sense by bicycle.  Public transport that would benefit from greater catchment. Plenty of roadspace to reallocate. And a willingness to adapt other countries’ ideas for our own benefit.


In March 2014 Waltham Forest was awarded £27m by Transport for London to transform its streets into a Mini-Holland. This was an initiative of the Mayor’s Vision for Cycling in London which was published in 2013 and marked a step-change in ambition levels, with funding to match.

Boroughs had to bid for this money. Two other boroughs (Enfield and Kingston-Upon-Thames) received similar Mini-Holland funding (I recommend researching them as well).

Compared to the prevailing “fighting-for-crumbs” nature of UK cycling campaigning, the boroughs’ Mini-Holland bids had to be truly visionary. They also had to be deliverable. Bids needed to be signed by either the Head of Council or Head of Transport. Political courage was absolutely critical and continues to be so.


The overall aims of Waltham Forest Mini-Holland were:

  • Return streets to local people
  • Improve walking environment
  • Enable cycling amongst all age groups and abilities [emphasis added]

Road and street design would systematically favour public and active transport. This ambitious approach was directly based on Dutch precedents. The Mini-Holland bid document incorporated:

  1. Low-traffic neighbourhoods, to be created by removing motorised through-traffic
  2. Protected space for cycling along main roads (to provide connections through the borough and to neighbouring boroughs)
  3. Fully-protected cycling space junctions on main roads (a UK first)
  4. Cycle parking in residential streets (mainly using hangers) and secure cycle hubs at rail and London Underground stations.
Filtered permeability removes motorised through-traffic = low-traffic neighbourhoods. (Image: LB Waltham Forest)


As well as political support, you need technical support. Until recently, UK cycling infrastructure was not known for its design quality. Mini-Holland proposals needed to draw on international (i.e. Dutch) best practice; this approach was finally gaining credence in 2012. A Mini-Holland Design Guide was produced, directly influenced by Dutch principles and written by transport consultant Jon Little, who had developed Waltham Forest’s Mini-Holland bid. This design guide was based on first-hand experience of cycling in the Netherlands and sought to bring a similar quality and consistency to Waltham Forest (2013, p. 17)

 “We want to ensure that our proposals represent a step change in design, are consistent in approach and will deliver significant improvements to cycling, not just treat this programme as an opportunity to design more business-as-usual interventions that don’t challenge conventional design and modal priority.”

UK cycling provision at junctions tended to use combinations of advanced stop lines (ASLs) and shared-use pavements. This doesn’t provide an inclusive cycling environment. Better designs were needed and were developed.  One of the largest projects in the Mini Holland programme is a 4.4km protected cycleway along Lea Bridge Road. This has introduced proper Dutch-influenced junctions to the UK, as seen below. Very easy to use, as we see in this video.

Image: @deekinstow


“When you push the status quo, it pushes back, hard.” 

Janette Sadik-Khan, 2016 Street Fight

For transformational projects like Mini-Holland, early public engagement is absolutely essential. Good designs aren’t much use on their own: if the public haven’t been engaged from the very start of the project, it is almost impossible to get anything built. A detailed engagement strategy was developed…and this become more sophisticated as the programme unfolded.


  • Early engagement via open questions in a survey to find out how people felt about their neighbourhood and what issues needed tackling. No designs or even suggested interventions were included at this stage and this is important.
  • Neighbourhood co-design workshops where residents added details of their local trips before being shown preliminary designs based on early engagement feedback.
  • Public consultation on proposals based on all previous feedback and also the original aims of the programme During the consultation a number of public drop-in events would be held within the neighbourhoods concerned.

Successive Commonplace engagements obtained detailed public feedback on Mini-Holland. This provided clear, site-specific information and shaped the emerging street designs.

While Mini-Holland has attracted loud protests, the engagement process has succeeded because it legitimises the delivery of streets that people fundamentally want. No-one wants to live on a street with more pollution, worse safety, unhappy children and social isolation. Mini-Holland helps create streets that support better neighbourhoods.


Waltham Forest Mini-Holland has, in its design, delivery and execution, brought about a substantial mode shift towards active travel at a rate of change that is unmatched anywhere in the English-speaking world.

Why don’t we try it out in New Zealand? Set up a Mini-Holland-like competitive bidding process for long-term monies. Evaluate the bids based on the recommendations in Turning the Tide. And deliver better public spaces, safer streets and access for all.

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    1. Yeah but this part of London is dead flat, Auckland isn’t. Being flat makes cycling far more practical.

      1. I cycle every day in Auckland. I go up a hill and down one on the way to work and up a hill and down one on the way home. It gets easier, and suddenly you find yourself a hell of a lot healthier. Do you cycle MasterChief? If not, have another go, it is as enjoyable as when we were kids. It is also for me, usually faster than any other form of transport when you consider traffic, finding parks, and so on, and almost as cheap as walking (which is also a pleasure).

  1. Its great reading about what is possible but also depressing living in New Zealand. In my town its a huge battle to even get traffic calming and a crossing outside the local primary school let alone having village wide re-engineering to make it cycle and walking friendly. There are a high number of people living here who are Green Party supporters and there are prominent environmentalists who blog about the need to decarbonise and promote the benefits of cycling. But almost all of them get into their car to drive to the local cafe. Maybe we are just slow learners.

    1. Just remember it would’ve been depressing living in the UK too – “Compared to the prevailing “fighting-for-crumbs” nature of UK cycling campaigning, the boroughs’ Mini-Holland bids had to be truly visionary… Political courage was absolutely critical and continues to be so.”

      And in the Netherlands too, back when the car dominated.

      There must be a point at which all the campaigners’ efforts finally pay off here, too. Probably when we finally see some political courage at local government level.

      1. Ill be an old man by the time New Zealand sorts its car dependance out. Agonisingly slow. Ive been waiting fifteen years for a much needed cycleway.

      2. Although London is no where near as car dependent as us, many people don’t own a car (the majority even?).
        And neither would have Holland been in the 1970’s (probably less than one car per household).
        Its a hard fight when almost everyone drives. But a fight worth attempting!

        1. It’s a different culture here. The Dutch consider it a problem if lots of people die on the streets. New Zealanders don’t. The mainstream media paint a very bleak picture. If you can’t be bothered driving a car, you’re not worthy of any concern.

          Although that got slightly less bad, 10 years ago NZ Herald would still write that if you ride a bicycle and you die it is your own fault (and I don’t mean they imply it, they used to write that almost literally).

          A much stronger signal even is the treatment of apartment dwellers in the CBD.

          And a different age. Bike Auckland once posted a picture of a leaflet of the Northcote Residents Association from back then, campaigning for a bicycle and pedestrian crossing over the Harbour Bridge.

        2. For an example of a Mini-Holland neighbourhood with higher car ownership levels, I’d recommend looking at Enfield Mini-Holland (now called “Cycle Enfield”). The borough is lagely 1930s suburbia, not too dissimilar to much of New Zealand.

          Enfield started with a very low cycling mode share (≈ 1%) but the new street designs have given people more travel choices. Some very good stories here:

      3. London Borough of Waltham Forest is now an exemplar for healthy streets….but this is quite a recent transformation.

        Here is where the Waltham Forest Cycling Action Plan was in October 2012:

        “…ignores the need for a primary network of segregated cycle routes, it does nothing whatever to stop rat-running, it in no way makes driving less attractive or less convenient and it does not re-allocate an inch of carriageway from the motor vehicle to the cyclist. Its solutions are wholly vehicular cycling solutions which in no way challenge the hegemony of the car.”

        Waltham Forest Mini-Holland addresses all of these criticisms and it began less than two years later.

    2. Pilot interventions are important because they let people experience how the streets can work with fewer cars. People are faster learners when they experience a new street environment first-hand. This can raise awareness and galvanise support.

      Walthamstow Village was the first to be trialled. Results from temporary street filtering informed the design of the final scheme. It also prompted a step-change in the amount of engagement undertaken by the council.

  2. Excellent post, thanks George. I set myself the goal of following every link within one week. 🙂 This is a key point:

    “This mode shift has not happened anywhere else in the UK – it is a unique result.”

    I think that’s important – there are plenty of other initiatives that have happened in the UK to add cycling infrastructure, but the modeshift gains aren’t comparable. And the Dutch have always stressed that the FIRST thing to do to establish a cycling network is reduce the traffic volumes. Otherwise, everywhere you put in a cyclelane, you’re creating many points of conflict between vehicles and cycles.

  3. I’m just wondering how we can get to the position of trialling this sort of thing in Auckland, especially when reading that

    “No designs or even suggested interventions were included at this stage and this is important.”

    The guide also says:

    “DO AN ENTIRE AREA. Low traffic neighbourhoods must be planned as an entire continuous area bounded by main/distributor roads. Attempts to reduce traffic in part of an area without regard to neighbouring streets can often result in the same traffic concentrating on fewer streets and/or a backlash at consultation stage.”

    Alrighty, so what AT programmes exist in which community members can get a trial up and running that is both comprehensive, and that doesn’t require them to outline a specific design and intervention?

    1. Fantastic stuff George.

      Maybe there should be a refresh on the NZTA campaign so that it becomes, “Don’t drive, to survive.”

      1. Thanks, Glen. That is the most exciting thing happening in transport in NZ at the moment. And I was thinking of it when I wrote my question. I wonder if any of them:

        – get approval from the relevant RCA if they actually redesign “an entire continuous area bounded by main/distributor roads” and
        – get accepted into the programme if the project proposes redesigning the entire area but doesn’t provide a design at the start, because that is dependent on the community feedback.

        I will be watching very closely. Inspiring stuff. 🙂

      1. Well spotted Fraggle.
        A shared street is better than nothing. I am not that enthusiatic because on Elliot St I was almost hit by a truck driver on his phone two weeks ago; and ahead of me this week a pedestrian had to take evasive action to avoid a car travelling at probably 50kph. AT are negligent in the way that they operate these streets so lets hope for better with High St.
        I wonder if Elliot St is even a shared street as it does not show as such on the website.
        My favourite piece from your link. “Goff said the costs of the permanent removal of carparks and alteration of curbs in 2022 could cost between $14million-$22m.” Are they being shifted to Albany to provide more park and ride parks?

      2. Funny title, cos pedestrians have already taken over High Street in practice. The car parks that remain are a bit like a boorish drunk blundering around the living room when everyone else has gone home. They don’t quite realise the party is over and they’re not the charming centre of attention they though they were.

    1. Hmmm… let me see. Are we all happy about the traffic ratrunning through small local streets, or do we want to get it back onto the main roads? I think it’s the latter, miffy.

      Maybe their very good monitoring will convince you. Putting that traffic back onto the main roads meant the traffic there did increase 15%. Until the adjacent area was treated too; then the main road traffic reduced! Once it’s rolled out extensively – people who want to walk and cycle will be able to do so everywhere, and people who want to drive will do their main travel on the arterials, and experience lower traffic volumes as well.

      Just like in the Netherlands, where people are satisfied with both the cycling and the driving provision.

      1. Sorry miffy when I actually clicked on your link I realised your concern wasn’t with extra traffic on the main roads.

        Obviously diverting the traffic down someone else’s street has the desired effect. 🙂 Have you checked out the World Bollard Association? It would probably appeal to you.

      2. Heidi I would love to see AT go out to St Heliers to consult on closing St Heliers Bay Road and divert all the town centre traffic onto some residential streets. I would love that because it would be funny to watch.

        1. The St Heliers example (if we have to keep going there) would probably be more like a low speed, pedestrian oriented boulevard encouraging non-local traffic movement on kepa rd/motorways (kind of like proposed). The residential streets are done like that to make rat runs on residential streets longer so they are less attractive to undertake, not just to ‘dead’ specific streets..

          But you probably have a basic level of comprehension and got that, and the issue is more your reprehension of social value.

          Everyone knows ATs internal and political struggles, undermining the engagement front that takes the strain of it all doesn’t actually improve anyone’s outcome.

    2. Note the shared use pavement on that street. That is an arrangement which works perfectly well in the Netherlands (and it is common — I guess you’d have a 20 km/h speed limit) but it will fail in Auckland because everyone ‘needs’ to still drive at 50.

      1. What strikes me is that they must actually have parking enforcement. Plenty of places there to squeeze a car if that’s what your local roading authority has allowed.

        1. Yes but that is not the street in that streetview. You can see the sharrows painted on the pavement.

          AFAIK 50 km/h streets in the Netherlands also tend to have cycleways.

          There’s an ambulance driver from the Netherlands with a Youtube channel, great for learning how to react on emergency vehicles, and also for observing how streets and roads are built over there.

        2. Sorry! I mean the image of Lea Bridge Road in the article. My mistake.

          The arrow in the screenshot isn’t a sharrow – it is a marking to show that this is a one-way street. This reduces motorised through-traffic and includes a cycling contraflow.

          Different part of WFMH but this diagram gives a good idea of how the various measures can be used to deliver a low-traffic environment:

  4. The Dutch figured this out 30 years ago with their Start Up Programme. Good to see Anglo countries (traffic engineers?) starting to figure it out. Thanks George.

  5. This is great. There are many elements I like in how this was planned and consulted. what I like most is how it was a competitive bidding process. Would love to see something like this in Auckland where there’s a significant pot of funding to improve an entire neighbourhood. Would mean that to win the funding a neighbourhood needs to prove they have the political leadership and community will to change. Much more effective than foisting change on folks. Then, once a few neighbourhoods have been overhauled and have seen the effects others will be lining up for it.

    1. I think we can go one step better though. I think the amount of work that advocates and volunteers would have to do to be able to bid for the possibility of a scheme is still part of the “begging for crumbs” paradigm.

      What Council and AT should do is choose several good locations (say, 5?) where this would work easily, and do the designs themselves. Then propose to the neighbourhoods that there is funding and resource for 2 of them, provide a mechanism for the community to state yes or no, and say whichever two say yes first get the schemes.

      The others then have a chance to come up with their own proposal, for which they can bid for a separate fund of money, but they at least have the original AT and Council design to work from as a starting point.

      1. The competitive tendering process meant that bids had to be very good. Bidding for crumbs is tedious, but these were sufficiently large amounts of money (≈ £30m each) to bring about transformational change.

        1. So who would be the Auckland equivalent of who would put the effort and money into preparing them? Local boards? Surely AT and Council are the ones with the expertise, unless local boards are resourced to spend the money on consultants.

        2. Local boards would come with the high level concepts after discussing with their stakeholders. The winning bidder would then have these shaped into more formal plans.

          I really think there is something in this. Firstly, consultation would be done at the front end (would be a requirement for submission). AT and AC would really be just taking those plans and making sure all relevant regulations etc are being adhered to. So a focus on refinement and delivery.

          This means no angry meetings in St Heliers, etc. They have either settled these issues locally already or they just don’t come calling. It allows some out of the box thinking because, let’s face it, AT are kind of stuck in their ways, and communities would feel they have real input. And the communities that really, truly, desire change will step up and hopefully be rewarded.

      2. I think it needs to be baked into the work being done by Panuku around neighbourhood regeneration.. Places like Papatoetoe, Henderson and Pukekohe; potentially stand to benefit the most.

        Then we just need to get our mates at NZTA to put in long distance cycling infrastructure and we are set… Easy Peasy

  6. Meanwhile in Auckland…

    As I was approaching the office on foot today I was shocked to see, that despite fully 5 lanes dedicated to road traffic at the top of Grafton Road, a van driver decided it was too much to ask him to wait for the queue at the traffic lights, so he took to the pavement and drove along it, all four wheels on the footpath, for about 50m before turning into a driveway.

    That’s the sort of attitude that has to be countered before safe streets can be a thing here.

  7. I have actually thought that every Auckland residential street that is not a cul de sac should be broken in two cul de sacs (with walking and cycling allowed in between. Put a mini park in where the road used to be.
    Maybe have a vote on every eligible street to see if this is wanted? I would certainly vote for it on our street…

    1. Putting a vehicle closure, as shown in the Filtered Permeability figure, would be really cheap and effective. NZ legislation has only two ways of authorising this: either Stopping Up the road, or declaring it a Pedestrian Mall (even if only for 2 metres, to stop vehicles driving through). Neither of these are really intended for this purpose, and have onerous consultation processes. If we want these kinds of treatment to be possible for a small local community to agree to and carry out, the right legislation needs to be in place to allow Councils to do it. Who is going to tackle the government about this?

      1. Hopefully, NZTA will. Their Innovating Streets for People programme is trying to find the barriers, nation-wide, and find solutions.

  8. George this is a fantastic piece of writing and data gathering, ka pai! I’m going to send it all around work at HLC/UDG, we’re talking about sustainable transport – but for so many it’s hard to grasp. There are so many reasons for this ‘upgrade’ in street scape design and road corridor use to be adopted for general use.

    1. Agree, Jessica! It does need to be adopted for general use. If we had this everywhere, no-one would want to go back to what we have now.

      We’re too tied up, I think, in how to engage and consult. We should just throw what we do out the window, and simply adopt best practice street design.

      We simply have a deficient transport network. Everybody has a right to safety. No one – certainly not the children – should have their mobility and safety determined by the level of resourcing, motivation or political views of their community.

  9. Here’s AT’s clumsy efforts at place making in Takapuna.

    There used to be a walk way designated with a painted line where inhabitants on the land side of Takapuna could walk through to the main shopping street, Hurstmere Road. This path was safer than walking through the car park where drivers sometimes seem more concerned by important things like parking than pedestrians. The walk way markings have become less visible over time. About a month ago as my wife and I were walking along the designated walk way she would have been struck by a car had I not grabbed her out of harms way (driver on cell phone). I was concerned that drivers might not be able to see the markings so I wrote to AT. Here’s their reply:

    Thank you for contacting Auckland Transport about the pedestrian walk way around the Anzac Car Park.

    Yes a walkway was marked around the back service entrance of the Anzac Carpark, but this was very contentious when it went in and was done without consultation from the Local Board and the Business Assn.

    After it was installed the complaints were that pedestrians cross over the access lane to go through to the shops and cafes on Hurstmere Road, but as it’s the back of the shops they don’t walk along it. It was also complained that the lane is a shared space where vehicles are travelling very slowing so it was suggested that this was not necessary.
    There’s recently been construction around this access lane with sections of it blocked off as well.
    Also with the Hurstmere Road Upgrade Project on the verge of being delivered the pedestrian movements will change for the duration of the construction period so no use putting in marking at this stage till we assess what is necessary.”

    Unbelievable. Who complained? Wasn’t the point of the walk way that at some point walkers would cross towards the shops? How could this crossing be in any way harmful for anyone? More harmful than walking in a shared space? When did the service entrance morph into a shared space? Is it in fact a shared space? With the upgrade of Hurstmere Road imminent why has there been no planning for pedestrian movement? Why do pedestrians have to eek out tiny concessions? How does this approach from AT fit in in any way with Panuku’s desire to pedestrianise Takapuna?

    Forgive me if I am sceptical that making decisions locally currently means putting decisions in the hands of interest groups because that is who is consulted with.

  10. Great article. The health benefits of walk-able streets are enormous. It really needs to be factored into BCR’s, especially the negative costs of building for cars.

  11. Thanks George. Two things spring out to me from this:
    1. the fact that the UK has no law making the wearing of cycle helmets mandatory. The majority of cyclists in this video / pictures are not wearing helmets becauase the streets are safe. NZ has an issue in this regard.
    2. the amazing reduction in NOX (i.e. air quality improvements) resulting from the scheme. Given London is facing an air quality crisis, I am surprised this has not featured more prominently in the press.

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