And so we roll into the last days of August, with spring in the air. Our header image this week: a night shot of Ngā Hau Māngere, the new old bridge which officially opens this weekend. 


The week in Greater Auckland

Monday’s post by Heidi, Turning Over a New Leaf, launched the week by examining how the Transport Emissions Reduction Pathway (adopted by Council last week) signals the dawn of a new era. Will it put the ‘action’ into ‘climate action’? Time will tell.

On Tuesday, Matt covered the stop-start process of getting [some] cars off [part of] Queen Street.

Wednesday’s post by Matt highlighted the interesting items on the agenda of this week’s AT Board meeting.

And Thursday’s post by Jolisa highlighted the massive potential lurking in New Zealand’s per-capita bike ownership and riding skills.


Weekend heads-up

The big event is the opening of the new old Māngere Bridge, Ngā Hau Māngere. Stuff has a sneak-peek ride-through video, and Bike Auckland has the scoop on how the project went so smoothly.


The week in flooding (and the cost of road repair)

Had to happen: Aotearoa’s turn to star in other countries’ round-ups of “the week in flooding”, with awful scenes from Northland, Wellington, and the top of the South Island. Rivers burst their banks, roads and bridges were washed away, communities were cut off.

And slip after slip after slip – Wellington’s had 670 landslides in the last seven weeks, including one that buried a Tesla (file under: the week in metaphors).

The numbers mount up. In Nelson alone, an estimated 1200 people were displaced over the weekend, and hundreds of homes have been red or yellow-stickered. It’s hard to capture the sheer range and scale of damage, but this thread of footage and photos by local journalist Naomi Arnold offers a glimpse:

And this slow-motion slip caught on video couldn’t be a timelier visual example of how climate change happens – to borrow a phrase from YA author John Green, “the same way we fall asleep [or fall in love]: slowly, then all at once.” 

Climate change is coming for our roads, and this article from Bloomberg.com lays out the scale of what it’s going to cost. Spoiler: lots. Like, at least twice as much as transforming our transport system ASAP.

As the Prime Minister said on her visit to flood-stricken Nelson:

“At the moment we’re seeing these in quick succession – how many times have we all heard the words ‘one in 100-year event’? They are becoming more frequent. And that’s cause for us to plan, it’s cause for us to prepare.”


Auckland, city of… sponge?

One way to prepare is to make sure your city can soak up the rain when it arrives. Here’s a great article from the BBC, about “sponge cities”, which builds on a report by ARUP that found Auckland the spongiest of seven global cities, ahead of Nairobi, Singapore, Mumbai, New York City, Shanghai and London.

Our sponginess is more by accident than intention – even our underlying rock is permeable. But we’re vulnerable to tree loss and intensification, and let’s not even get started on all that tarmac. Urban wetland restoration work like the Te Auaunga stream can help.

Auckland became a relatively spongy city by chance. To remain so, it’s likely to need more projects like Te Auaunga, and to address some of the trends paving over its green spaces and toppling its trees. Worldwide, cities will need to find similar ways to work with nature to prevent flooding. In the process, they might also find connection and community in waterways and greenery that is welcoming for people and other creatures – like Auckland’s eels – alike.

Te Auaunga stream restoration project through Underwood Park in Wesley/ Mt Roskill
World-class sponginess: Te Auaunga stream through Underwood Park, rescued from its concrete channel and restored with native plantings. (Image: Jolisa Gracewood)

Are we twice as climate-action-ready as we think we are?

An intriguing new study from the US found that “supporters of climate policies outnumber opponents two to one, while Americans falsely perceive nearly the opposite to be true.”

Wonder if the same is true here? Maybe we could move on from talking about “bringing people along” and just…go for it?

https://twitter.com/GreggRSparkman/status/1562126701684871168?s=20&t=cupOvvLchef9f92gZphvdQ


Life in low-traffic neighbourhoods

As Aotearoa gears up to deliver an antidote to climate anxiety in the form of car-light streets around schools and town centres, every day brings appealing examples from elsewhere of how they work – including some delightful bonuses.

In London, for example, people are feeling more confident about their pets, and local bistro owners are grudgingly admitting that they’re actually full to overflowing, not empty as they’d predicted.

Meanwhile in Croatia, a pedestrianised downtown (in place for two decades now) is a quiet revelation for visitors:

https://twitter.com/emilykerr36/status/1561286486145880064


How’ bout us? How ’bout us, baby?

Simon Wilson posed a good question in last weekend’s Herald. While we’re waiting for bigger, bolder projects, where are all our pocket parklets? Despite early doubters who saw them as a front in some kind of ‘war’, they’re wildly successful everywhere they go:

…the bars and restaurants said no, wait, this works, and the city said okay, and now there are more than 3000 parklets in American cities, hundreds in London and thousands more in Europe and other parts of Britain.

We should have competitions, every spring all over the city, with prizes for the best new use of a stupid old car park. There’s still time to get it organised this year.

The article includes lovely photos of parklets that make you want to ask: two and a half years into “living with Covid”, how come we don’t have one of these on every block?? Great for cafes, great for kids, great for catch-ups with neighbours, adding a little al fresco frisson to your day.

Some exemplary parklets, as cited in the article by Simon Wilson.

Or, for anyone still nervous about converting scraps of street space, can we sell you on simple smarter uses of empty shopfronts?


The beauty of bollards

A gorgeous photo essay from the Social Life Project about the many uses of bollards. From simple posts to shapely sculptures to chunky separators, these hard-working pieces of infrastructure help humanise our streets. What can’t a bollard do!

Just a sample of bollardian beauty from the Social Life Project’s photo essay.

What if: Symonds Street


Carpooling but for bikes

Los Angeles, like Auckland, is choked by traffic but has a great climate. In the absence of a proper cycle network, the city is testing a bike-buddy initiative for commuters, like school bike buses and bike trains but for grown-ups. Reckon it would work here too?

Though routes are charted out on the app, they are pre-vetted by “flow curators” — experts who are paid to design the safest route and then road-test it to ensure that conditions are as safe as possible for beginning riders.

There’s even a public art component of the project. Information about the length and routes of each ride, as well as weather and traffic data, will be collected and used to create what the team calls “interpretative cartography.” Riders will change the artwork in real time as they log more miles, creating an ever-evolving portrait of LA by bike.


Reduce, re-use, re….cycle

Still on the subject of cycling: Bike Auckland is bridging a gap by liaising with the police to find new homes for bikes that can’t be reunited with their original owners. (Hot tip: be sure to register your bike with 529 Garage so it can be easily returned to you if it’s stolen and then recovered).

As Gabriel Gati explained to Jesse Mulligan on the radio, the leftover bikes are often auctioned for small sums, or sent off to landfill. Salvaging any bikes that still have a useful life – via community bike hubs for repair as needed – gives free wheels to those who need them. Win-win, a virtuous cycle.

The interview also mentions the recent announcement by the Chair of the Board that Waka Kotahi does not plan to trial a micromobility lane on the Harbour Bridge. Bike Auckland remains keen to work with Waka Kotahi to show how the stated “safety concerns” can be easily addressed.


Will we ever get over it?

A corker of a read from David Slack this week on why Waka Kotahi continues to resist even trialling a lane reallocation on the bridge. He lists examples of cities where people can walk, jog and wheel freely from one side of the water to the other, then lays it out straight:

Thank you once again for absolutely nothing Waka Kotahi, and your dismal fealty to a way of life that may feel to you like the present and the future but is emphatically not.

There is a far better way to go, but we cannot have it while your tar-seal-splattered boot remains oafishly pressed on the oxygen tube.

We have the space ready to go, just like they did in New York and Vancouver.

But no, say the fossils at Waka Kotahi, too hard. No, can’t be done.

The Burrard Bridge bike lane in Vancouver. Basic as, and it works: ten years after predictions of “chaos”, it’s the busiest bike route in North America. Go figure. (Image: Jolisa Gracewood)

Do you have your ticket to the Bike Champions Forum?

Next Tuesday is curly questions for Mayoral candidates time. Auckland’s next mayor needs the leadership skills to front a city-wide programme of rapid street transformations. Winning over a Bike Auckland audience is the perfect warm-up… right? Should be fun.

Tickets are available here. Be quick! There are only 50 in-person spots left. You can also sign up to watch the event online.


Housing: are we there yet?

Data collected by Kiwibank shows how New Zealand’s housing shortage got much worse over 2014-2020, then has been improving in the last couple of years, and could be eliminated in the next year. We’d guess that Auckland might take another year or two beyond that, using similar data.

But what does it all mean? Measuring demand based on a constant number of “people per household” is a uniquely NZ way of doing things. Most countries have managed to build homes faster than the population is growing, so the number of “people per household” falls over time. We’d expect the same thing here, especially with an ageing population. For Auckland, it might take another 20,000-40,000 homes to get us back to where we should have been by now (e.g. with 2.9 people per household rather than 3.1). Rough figures, don’t @ us!


City Rail Link station names

Back in May, City Rail Link and Auckland Transport revealed the names they were submitting to the NZ Geographic Board (NZGB) for formal adoption. This week the NZGB have gone out for formal consultation, after making a few amendments, saying: “The Board has changed the names originally put forward, to ensure they are consistent with standardised written te reo Māori and to use the correct terms for official railway station names“.

The changes are:

  • Waitemata (Britomart) -> Waitemata Railway Station
  • Te Wai Horotiu Station -> Te Waihorotiu Railway Station
  • Karanga A Hape Station -> Karanga-a-Hape Railway Station
  • Maungawhau Station -> Maungawhau / Mount Eden Railway Station

You can read more about reasoning behind the changes and get links to make a submission here.


Taking travel down a notch

Interesting read from Resilience about the costs and unfairness of hypermobility for the few. What if we all had motorised travel allowances: how would you spend yours?

Imagine a luxurious civilization in which every person has a motorized travel allowance of 4000 kilometers every year, with unused amounts one year carried forward to allow more distant journeys, perhaps every few years. Imagine also that non-motorized travel is not tallied in this quota, so that a person who makes their daily rounds on foot or bicycle can use all or most of their motorized travel quota for those occasional longer journeys.

It’s true that a motorized travel quota of 4000 km per year would seem a mite restrictive to most people in wealthy industrial countries. But such a travel allowance would have been beyond the dreams of all of humanity up until the past two centuries. And such a travel allowance would also mean a significant increase in mobility for a large share of the global population today.


Itsy-bitsy teeny-weeny EVs

Jeremy Rose writes in the Spinoff about micro-EVs, which are increasingly popular overseas but currently not street-legal in New Zealand. Why? A four-seater electric car for less than $12,000 sounds pretty great, and a heck of a lot less damaging on our roads than those double-cab utes.

A Lithuanian version of the Wuling Hongguang Mini EV (Image: Wikipedia)

As the article says, quoting E.F. Schumacher’s 1973 bestseller Small is Beautiful:

“Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius – and a lot of courage – to move in the opposite direction.”

Micro-vehicles were once a source of intense local pride. (Image: NZ Film Commission)

Cartoon of the week

Instant classic (and homage to the legendary R. Crumb) by the legendary Sharon Murdoch of Stuff.


Podcast corner

You know urbanist discourse is maturing when your parents point you towards cool podcasts about it. This one from late 2020 is worth revisiting, because the question it poses is timeless: are car parks the ultimate dead space.

Meanwhile, Active Towns talks to Doug Gordon from The War on Cars about the war on car dependency.

And the most recent episode from The War on Cars looks at empowering all bodies on bikes.


Local bodies on bikes

When voting against the TERP on Friday, one Auckland councillor made a comment about climate-conscious candidates using petrol-powered vehicles to put up billboards for local body elections.

The point is, people work with the tools they have – and some of City Vision’s billboard crew got around by bike. It’s also good to see other candidates around the country finding creative opportunities to get their names out there.

https://twitter.com/SaraTempleton_/status/1560944311935459328


Communities collaborating to calm traffic

A promising story from Tauranga, where a safety project on a busy school street is successfully reducing traffic and prioritising buses, walking and cycling, but has proved challenging for some. To help the project adapt and move forward, a community panel of a dozen people “of different ages and situations” is meeting regularly to work on solving aspects of the design.

They have an independent facilitator, access to any specialists and information as needed, and a reference group of 25 people to bounce ideas off.  So far, it sounds like a productive meeting of minds:

“What this has done is brought a whole lot of like-minded people with different ideas and from different backgrounds to the table,” says Dan McLean. “It’s just trying to get a balance between one’s needs versus the majority of others.”


Cool job alert

Huh, looks like Aotearoa is in the market for a Prime Climate Minister? Well played, Greenpeace, well played.


The way we were…

Sad news this week of the death of Margaret Urlich, talented singer and style icon. This 1986 Peking Man video shows her in her prime, along with glimpses of Auckland as was. Mirror-glass buildings; free-running motorways and a glimpse of the off-ramp that blossomed into the pink path; and a largely lifeless inner city, save for the jazzy Cafe DKD (see chocolate cake recipe here).

That’s it for this week; we’ll leave you with this thought for the weekend. If Auckland were a cocktail, what would it be?

https://twitter.com/maxdubler/status/1561385511020744704

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44 comments

  1. That cartoon of the bus going to Somewhere sums up my experience last week.

    I got on the bus displaying 856 at Albany, turns out the driver thought he was doing the 865. AT app tracking showed it as 856 and wildly off course. Get off at Browns Bay to catch the actual 856 so I can get home, and they’re cancelled for the next 80 minutes.

    1. Somewhere is preferable to nowhere. I have zero trust in busses right now.

      Every single time I do trip which involves a transfer, the next two busses have been canceled. It’s infuriating.

    2. Oh no, that’s a shocker!! But at least there was some human error involved, rather than it all being systemic demise.

  2. Pluralistic ignorance- what a great term. I am surprised pluralistic ignorance isn’t more highly correlated with Fox News. I put it on sometimes to see what they are currently ranting about.

  3. Been fairly sobering this week, to watch our beloved country be torn apart by “Mother Nature”. “Mother Nature” is also a great healer,but “she” cannot do it on her own. The media narrative around climate change has been great,most of the stories,re flood damage,slips(in our case),wildfires,droughts elsewhere,contain a reference to human induced climate change.
    Having spent $85 million,almost repairing the Marlborough/Nelson area roading network, W K now estimate another $100 million required to repair damage this time. They also concede that some roads,may never reopen. This ,alongside the angst ,about the state (potholes) in the rest of the roading network, suggests to me ,an organization being overwhelmed by circumstances. There is an element of” you reap
    what you sow” about it. WK would be best advised to,pool its scarce resources(manpower and money) into managing its existing assets,before adding any more,noting of course,that Transmission Gully,already has maintenance issues.

    1. What’s most painful is hearing the WK CEO talk as if the high maintenance cost of our road network is a consequence of historical underinvestment! The problem is the exact opposite. This is the consequence of an imbalanced investment – way too much money spent on highways instead of railways, on intersection widening instead of walking and cycling. This has left us with too much to maintain. And with too much induced traffic that is swamping our urban areas and making every programme more expensive.

      The looming issue of climate change damage was flagged clearly but – to any effective level – utterly ignored.

    2. Marlborough Council is going to subsidise water taxis for Sounds residents who have being cut off from the road network kind of an AT local service for boats. Also free mooring at Picton and Havelock marinas. Great life style if you can afford it.

    3. That YouTube slip video shows a classic semi-circular slip, where a “tiny” retaining wall for a road is enough to drop the safety factor below 1.0 with
      just enough pore pressure that was not included in design standards. “1 in 100 years” doesn’t help people to think of infrastructure being only able to handle so much rain and no more.

  4. https://at.govt.nz/about-us/have-your-say/west-auckland-consultations/great-north-road-and-hepburn-road-glendene-intersection-upgrade/

    The first post TERP AT consultation, nothing has changed. It has the most insane/least likely to ever be used advanced bike stop box I have ever seen. As is tradition, zero bike infrastructure is being suggested despite Great North Road having “planned” regional bike infrastructure along it (Hepburn and Awaroa will also get bike infrastructure).

    1. So much wrong there, even if you want to maintain all those turning lanes. There is a shared path on the top side, but not the bottom and some plonker has built the bus shelter right in the middle of the shared path instead of using the large berm behind the path. The path starts basically on top of the intersection so you can’t actually get to it safely.

      1. Any advice, Sailor Boy, about the level at AT to approach about why this has to go back to the drawing board? I’m thinking it’s probably Board.

        1. I don’t think it needs to go ‘back to the drawing board’ as in start from the beginning. It needs to be reviewed for suitability for cycling. The space is there the expensive bit of the parallel crossing is done. It needs so.eone to come in and identify the low cost cycling bits to bring it to a minimum standard.

          I don’t know how to get this specific project back on track, but overall I think AT need a dedicated team to audit every design for cycling standards at every stage. This could be a Non Motorized User Audit done in parallel with Road Safety Audits. The outputs from AT clearly demonstrate that knowledge of cycling design is not ingrained in every team and they will need dedicated support to develop those design skills.

      2. The blue is footpath and green is grass. No shared path is getting built as far I can tell.

        This bit of residential road is scary to walk along let alone bike, this won’t change that.

        1. It doesn’t help that it is mislabeled, but there are ramps for cyclists to join and leave the path and a parallel crossing for pedestrians and cyclists.

        2. It’s listed as a foot path, not a shared path. Shared path is not ever used in the consultation.

          So bike “ramps” they are planning to build are pretty much only to exist to facilitate illegal activity, riding on the footpath.

          This does nothing for bikes, no bike money should be spent here.

        3. TK.

          Ah so it is a thing. Thanks I hate it.

          Infuriating that both locations are multi lane strodes with zero bike space (regional level bike infrastructure planned…) . ATs “solution” for bikes, go illegally ride on the foot path, making it worse for footpath users. This time we won’t even bother to rename it or possibly the footpaths are too narrow to be called shared paths.

        4. “Ah so it is a thing. Thanks I hate it.”

          Parallel ped and cycle phases is how the Netherlands builds bike infrastructure. It’s a really good idea. They just need to ensure that the paths are designated appropriately and that they are safe to get to. Here, AT haven’t done either here. I.e. it’s a nice concept, but delivered by someone who doesn’t have the detailed knowledge needed.

          I am seeing this a lot in designs. Peolle are aware of all the cool new stuff they should include, but not aware of the stuff they need to make it work.

      3. I plan on submitting and asking them to show ATs standard vehicle crossing detail on their drawing. Some pedant keeps asking for that with planning applications now. We used to just condition them to require it. Now every drawing has to show their silly little detail. So why should they not get the same grief?

    2. So does this mean that those on bike are going to come off GNR and use the worlds shortest shared path ( or encouraged to ride, currently, illegally on footpath) ?

    3. Try visiting on bike, bus or foot, or at least Streetview, then come up with affordable ideas to make crossing the road safe before AT can afford to spend more on GNR bike route. Send them in as Feedback. Don’t send suggestions that can’t work. Of course GNR needs more spent sometime.
      ASBs are for “if you happen to be there”, not “you really ought to try to get there”.

      1. That’s good advice. But can we assume the TERP has shift AT on what they think “suggestions that work” are?

        Just this year, removing flush medians and removing extra turning lanes to provide the needed space for safety have counted as “suggestions that don’t work”. Which is entirely about mode bias and car dependent thinking, and doesn’t align with the TERP (nor with a whole lot of other direction given to AT previously).

        So genuine question… if we make these pragmatic suggestions in our feedback, do you think AT will finally be able to reallocate road space for biking safety? Or do we have to go higher to get the required changes?

      2. I live locally, I use that intersection a few times a month, it’s terrifying as pedestrian. GNR is beyond miserable for biking and there is more or less zero infrastructure between Henderson and New Lynn. If you want bikes here, a half arsed solution is not going to work. Building the planned regional level bike infrastructure will.

  5. If you catch the mid morning Te Huia which arrives into Frankton at 11.45 am and walk very quickly along the shared path to the Hamilton transport centre you will arrive just in time to witness the Hamilton Te Awamutu departing without you at 12.00 pm. You will have more luck if you want to go to Cambridge as it is timed to depart at 12.15 pm. Never mind there is another service to Te Awamutu at 2.00 pm and one to Cambridge at 2.15 pm. If you decide to catch the later buses you can spend a couple off hours in the city centre with a leisurely lunch, browsing through the shops or a walk along the riverside walkways. Making the trip in the other direction is of course possible with a 2.09 pm departure giving plenty of time to make the connection from the Transport Centre to the Railway station. But this brings up the question is this good enough to attract the punters and what could be done to improve the situation. I have though about a shuttle or a fleet of e scooters.

    1. You might be better to get off the bus at Rotokauri and catch the frequent comet bus into the bus station if you want to get there sooner. The solution should be to build an actual city centre station and run buses and trains at least hourly though.

      1. I did think of the comet but I don’t think it would be quicker to the transport centre but if you don’t want to walk its the best option however you probably wouldn’t make the 12.15 pm bus. As for a city centre station we’ll it would have to be on the other line okay for Te Huia but we would still need Frankton for trains travelling on the main trunk. It’s seems a pity to have to build another station when so many other improvements are needed.

        1. I see a city centre station as being part of a Waikato metro service; running all day at reasonable frequencies. Services would probably be Huntly to Cambridge and Morrisville to Te Awamutu. For a project that big a proper city cebtre station is needed. Unfortunately it probably has to be on a new double tracked alignment including a new city centre tunnel and bridge. Mainline trains can stop at Frankton where riders can transfer to the metro service.

    2. Yes, you’re right, Royce. Thinking about it from the point of the user shows up a whole lot of good incremental improvements that are needed. Both a shuttle and a fleet of e-scooters seem like a good idea. So would a slight timetable change, say, a 12:15 departure instead of 12. Also, it should be an integrated offering so that if you miss the connection they put on a replacement service… which would lead them to think through the best times for the timetable.

      1. Probably the best solution is to adjust the departure times so passengers have time to either walk or catch the comet.

    3. As once a month I have a thing to go to in Hamilton on a Sunday but the way the buses are the only day I can get to it is go down on a Friday and then get the Orbiter , but on the Saturday the last Orbiter leaves 30mins before the Te Huia arrives at Rotokauri .,which doesn’t help . As for Frankton that is a joke , as Busit state on the noticeboard at Frankton it is a 5min walk to Queens drive for the closes Bus Stop which I think is a joke as the number of times there are people there with kids and baggage all trying to make the bus , and I don’t see why certain buses don’t go via the station to meet the train or is that to had for them and it would only add around 5mins to the route .

  6. Don’t forget there is already a city central station in Hamilton – the underground
    one, which is blocked up.
    I have found the Comet bus to be good – every 15 minutes and usually on time.

  7. In the Herald article ‘Auckland mayoral candidates give Government’s intensification plans a roasting’ (available also on Press Reader) Orsman notes that “the main mayoral candidates last night said they wouldn’t stand for Government-imposed directives to allow for higher density housing, leading to the loss of kauri villas and bungalows.” Apparently new three storey buildings will “destroy the city’s identity and character”, and should be resisted at all costs. After two paragraphs on an Erebus Memorial the article then discusses how “One issue all four candidates agreed on was the protection of elite soils at the expense of urban sprawl, particularly around Pukekohe.”

    1. Yeah so how does that work? No sprawl, but no height either? So nowhere at all for more dwellings, let’s just bid up the existing shacks till the entire AKL eco money collapses? Hurrah. Hopeless.

      1. Simple. Charge young people more and more money to live here, to be paid to the landed gentry boomers who don’t want to work anymore.

        It used to be called feudalism but now we call it ‘protecting character’.

  8. Went to the opening of Māngere Bridge, Ngā Hau Māngere,missed the official part,but it was very popular, even some seals turned up in the Harbour for a look. What struck me the most was,this was a pedestrian event,my guess 20 peds for each cyclist. WK probably thought they were building a commuter bridge,that will get little use,but l think not,it has opened up an area,that has been crying out for development for years.
    It needs further development though,the link to Onehunga,either town or train station is hostile on foot or bike,and better links to Onehunga foreshore would help. The foreshore around Mangare Bridge is excellent on foot or bike,30k speed limit,would improve it more.
    An added bonus today,was two members of our police force, got to interact with the public ,in a much more positive way,than they are normally required to do,l hope they enjoyed the occasion.

    1. Full marks for concept and delivery, especially given the last 2 years.

      I’ll miss the rehabilitated highway bridge underpass, which I only learned of during the build. The two together make a pretty decent circuit for learner riders, or just a stroll.

      Church Road roundabout and its ramp protected crossings were working hard. An upside for drivers is that people crossing prevent any arm of the circle from dominating at busy times, like this opening.

      While the new bridge shares access with a boat ramp, it would be nice to see a bit of traffic calming to tame Coronation Road. The intersection with Kiwi Esplanade could use tightening up, too.

      Seeing a thumper of a project like this completed makes it seem possible to do the next steps.

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