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Crosstown Traffic, And I'm tryin' to get on the other side of town

DDOT hosted the first meeting of the Crosstown Multimodal Traffic Study earlier this week. The presentation and boards are all available at the project website. There's not much in the way of breathtaking images or data here, beyond some existing conditions.

The Vision Zero Board shows a lot of the crowd-sourced information, including the areas where cyclists have issues. There's no explanation on the board for each of these, but I agree with what I see. Irving and Michigan are terrible near the hospital. I think the info is pulled from the interactive map.

The existing facilities map drives how just how few bike facilities there are in this area.

The next meeting is scheduled for April.  

Apex Building site - 16' wide Capital Crescent Trail and 10k sq.ft. of bike parking beneath

The sketch plan for the Apex Building/Purple Line Station site has been completed and county staff are recommending that it be approved on Thursday, which will allow for development of the preliminary plan. This plan includes some details and ideas about what the section of the Capital Crescent Trail through the site will be like.

The Apex building currently sits above the Air Rights Tunnel in Bethesda, through which the CCT currently passes. The original plan for the Purple Line had been for it to share that tunnel with the CCT, but when engineers looked at it, they realized that there wouldn't be room for both, so it looked like the trail would be forced out of the tunnel. The county approached the owners of the Apex Building about possibly redeveloping the site - allowing for construction of a better/cheaper Purple Line station with a full CCT - in exchange for some development rights, and long story short the owners are making plans to do that now.

The Montgomery County staff had comments on the sketch plan, some of which relate to the CCT. One of the main criticisms is about the alignment of the trail which isn't straight enough for them. I believe you can see what they're talking about in the image below where it makes a small s-curve under the gray area between the Residential Lobby/Amenity and the Office Lobby.

Screenshot 2016-02-10 at 12.25.44 AM

If that is the trail, then it looks like it will be a separate tunnel (which the language supports too) and that it will diverge significantly south on the east side.

They add that the preliminary plan should include a trail that is at a minimum of 16 feet wide and

  • Coordinate a smooth transition to the trail at the western property line
  • Show the future eastern limits of the tunnel under Wisconsin (to the eastern ROW line on MD 355)
  • Consider an art component in tunnel
  • Work to minimize vertical change for the Capital Crescent Trail.

Elsewhere they state that "Bicycle access to the site will be via the CCT running through a lower level of the building, with access to Georgetown and Silver Spring.  The Sector Plan recommends the construction of a 10,000 square foot bicycle storage facility in the building next to the trail." I take that to mean that cyclists could pull off the trail, park in the facility and access the building from beneath, which would be awesome. 

I'd like to see the design include the use of some kind of sun tunnel-like devices that could bring natural light into the tunnel, but that is admittedly a pipe dream (see what I did there). And the more I think about it, the more I'd like to see the tunnel continue under Woodmont and Bethesda Avenues to connect to the current CCT. I realize how hard that would be, and it would need an access to Woodmont for people wanting to go to destinations there, but at the very minimum they could set up a break-out wall or something that would avoid precluding it in the future.

Arlington's Pershing Drive as a Complete Street

Last summer, the Arlington Division of Transportation began to study N. Pershing Drive between N. Barton and N. Piedmont Streets in order to develop a preliminary concept plan for the Pershing Drive Complete Streets Project, which they have since developed and are accepting comments on. 

The project consists of installing high priority spot improvements along N. Pershing Drive from N. Barton – N. Piedmont Streets to improve safety for all street users.

image from

The project has several elements that should lead to a better pedestrian experience and even add traffic calming, but from a cycling standpoint it is basically limited to sharrows (which is not nothing, but it's not protected bike lanes either. Below is the typical changes proposed at each intersection.

Typical Intersection

(though I prefer the other alternative to this one in which the weird stub road on the NE side is made into greenspace)

An exception is that on the Cleveland to Danville section. It currently has bike lanes (as does the Barton to Cleveland section), and those would remain with more solid lines in places where they are currently dashed. 

image from

I can count on one hands the number of times I've been on Pershing and probably not in years, so I can't really weigh in. Perhaps, as some suggest, a bicycle boulevard on 5th makes more sense - especially when coupled with an improved Arlington Boulevard Trail. I see these proposals as an improvement, even if only a small one. 

You can sit your comments at the county's website.

Eastern Protected Bike Lane meeting do-over much less contentious

On Saturday, DDOT held a 2nd meeting on the Eastern Downtown Protected Bike Lane Study in which they offered a formal no-build option and had a more controlled meeting than the last. I missed the first half, which consisted of an open house and then a presentation, but I was there in time for the public comments. DDOT brought moderators, had a sign-up for speakers and posted rules which kept it from turning into the raucous meeting that the October one turned into.  You can see the presentation boards from the meeting here, and the media coverage at these links (WAMU, WJLA, NBC4, City Paper, and WTOP). This is, in my opinion, the most important slide showing the impact to be about 10 lost spaces on Sunday.

My thoughts are that, in addition to being a boring (that's good) and civil meeting, this was a demonstration of strong and wide-ranging support for some kind of bike facility here.

I sat next to someone who was counting the pro vs. con comments and it was running strongly in favor or Pro. Perhaps 2-1 or 3-1. To be fair, it appears that many of the people who supported the Con side chose not to speak - perhaps choosing to allow the church leadership to speak for them, so that's not necessarily indicative of the crowd's opinion. Nor is the crowd's opinion indicative of public opinion - being able to organize better means that you win a lot, but it doesn't necessarily mean that you should. I believe that everyone opposed to the bike lanes were somehow affiliated with one off the neighborhood churches, while those in favor lived in, worked in or biked through the neighborhood. At least a few also went to traditionally African-American churches in the area. 

The speakers from the churches often spoke of their church's history and the contributions they made to the neighborhood before jumping to a statement about how they would not allow their church to be destroyed. Usually they skipped the step about how the bike lanes would do that. At least one person did mention that the parking made it possible for elderly suburban members to continue to go to a church that was in their community - even if it wasn't in their neighborhood. The most memorable line, based on the response (both pro and con) and the media coverage, was from UHOP's Apostle Robert Price who said that "We're not going to let someone's pastime destroy our lifeline." Many people pointed out that biking was not a pastime for them, and that safe roads were as much a lifeline as convenient parking. Price also argued that they were not going to give up what they had for the convenience of others, which several speakers pushed back on as well. William Lamar IV, pastor at the Metropolitan AME Church was the only person to speak specifically of gentrification and how "the city is being made over for the convenience of newcomers." Another opponent claimed that there was no problem with bike crashes until the city started building bike lanes "go ride in the parks"  she said "that's what they're there for." UHOP recommended the no-build option.

Those in favor of bike lanes tended to speak more about safety and the benefits of cycling. One woman in support of the bike lanes pointed out that her church lost parking when the nearby Convention Center was built, but that they were still there and that they weren't going anywhere. Many talked about how they biked because it was the only form of transportation they could afford. People told stories of crashes or near misses.

In general, I think that the meeting showed that support of the protected bike lanes is pretty broad while the opposition comes almost exclusively from a handful (perhaps 2-4) of churches, and perhaps not even a majority of predominantly African-American churches in Shaw. It remains to be seen which side made the more compelling argument. 

Website dedicated to wrongness wrong about something (in this case Capital Bikeshare)

Michael Sargent with the Heritage Foundation's Daily Signal has a post about Capital Bikeshare arguing that the program's big losses show why government shouldn't fund "bikeshares." Allow me to respond. 

Before we even get into it, can I point out that the "Big Losses" on roads would, by this logic, also show that governments shouldn't fund "Bikeshares". If people think that government shouldn't support transportation unless it can be fully paid for by user fees, then that is both in direct conflict with what the founders believe and means that there will basically be no transportation.

Showering federal money on the latest fashionable project is second nature for some members of Congress. The newest example comes with a program that looks to classify bikeshare programs as public transit.

The Bikeshare Transit Act, introduced by Reps. Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., and Vern Buchanan, R-Fla., would make bike sharing programs eligible for continuous funding out of the transit account of the Highway Trust Fund providing these programs with a permanent federal funding stream.

Well, no. It makes bikeshare eligible for funding under the "Associated Transit Improvement" and "Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality" programs.  The first does come out of the transit account but the latter from the Federal-Aid Highway Program. The entire ATI programs is limited to 1% of the FTA money and CMAQ is about 8.5% of highway money, which is hardly showering. There is nothing in the bill about "continuous" funding, though it is possible, if local governments choose to do so. 

The expansion of federal funding into local matters is not unprecedented.

There's no expansion here. This money was already going to local governments to spend as they wish, within certain constraints. This law just removing some of these constraints (explicitly, many believe that this is already allowed).

Congress has been diverting federal gas tax dollars—originally intended for the interstate highway system—to distinctly non-federal concerns like local transit, beautification efforts, and bike paths for some time.

We can disagree as to whether a local road or highway interchange isn't distinctly local but an interstate transit system like Metro, an interstate bike trail like the Mount Vernon Trail or an interstate bikeshare program like Capital Bikeshare is.

Also, from the comments there, "The Federal gas tax was part of the Revenue Act of 1932 so to say it was "originally intended for the interstate highway system" which wasn't authorized until 1956 seems far fetched."

While bikeshare can be a fun, healthy, and quick way to get around, its status as a veritable, cost-effective transportation service that requires federal tax dollars over local sponsorship deserves real scrutiny.

I don't even know what this means. Is it cost-effective? Why is there a comma after veritable [English teachers, please weigh in]?

Capital Bikeshare riders traversed over 6.4 million miles in 2014—a blip compared to the nearly 2 billion passenger-miles traveled on D.C.’s rail and bus transit services. This huge disparity calls into question bikeshare’s value as a real mode of transit versus a desirable amenity.

Use is a blip compared to other modes, but so is it's cost when compared to them. What's relevant to the question about it's value as a real mode of transit is cost-to-benefit which is how most people define value but which is never mentioned by Sargent. 

Within its primary market of D.C., Capital Bikeshare covers only 70 percent of its operating costs, meaning it loses 30 cents on the dollar. While this may be a high ratio for transit services (which is not saying much)

It's also a high ratio for roads, which cover about 0% of operating costs via user fees.

D.C.’s Capital Bikeshare lost $1.7 million on 2014 operations.

Another blip.

The bottom line is that D.C. taxpayers must fork over 65 cents every time someone hops on a Bikeshare bike.

Actually it's the same taxpayer - and he's pissed. Really though he's conflating the whole system with just the part in DC. DC's system makes money or breaks even on operations, so DC taxpayers probably pay nothing.

the real costs are actually much greater: Operating costs do not include the capital expenses of the bikes themselves, nor the expensive docks that must be built and connected to the city’s power grid.

Michael, you're an idiot. They're solar powered. But true that operating costs and capital costs are different. 

This means that Capital Bikeshare would never be able to cover its full costs without drastically increasing rider fees.

True (although they could add more advertising I suppose)...but relevant?

Yet even its operating costs do not compare favorably to existing modes of transit. Bikeshare’s operating costs per passenger-mile exceed those of D.C. Metrorail by some 55 percent

Why is "per passenger mile" the right metric? [And since CaBi uses "as the bird flies" they under-report passenger miles, making this fact unknowable].

Because employees’ primary jobs are to repair and reshuffle bikes across the system, expanding Bikeshare using federal money would undoubtedly increase these costs.

Well yes. Contractually, the operators fee is based on the number of docks. So that's a mathmatical fact. But there would likely be network effects and economies of scale that could lead to a lower per-trip subsidy, no? Also, expanding bikeshare with money we found in the Mayor's sofa would also increase operating costs. 

These cost metrics are important because a continuous stream of federal funding provides entities with little incentive to control operating costs.

Perhaps, but not in this case. This would be money that DC would be allowed to use for many things. Spending it on CaBi means not being able to spend it on those things. So, that's the incentive.

“Free money” from the federal government would lead only to permanent dependency on federal funding and the corresponding reduction in responsiveness and service that comes with it.

Yeah US Military, I keep asking you to invade Belgium and you keep not doing it. Your service sucks (Thank you for your service, BTW). 

This draws a sharp contrast to having the parties that benefit from bikeshare bear the costs of the system.

You mean, like taxpayers?

Then there’s the issue of who would actually gain from more taxpayer subsidies going to bikesharing.

Great question. how about: users of the system, people who breath air, people who care about public health, people who live in low-lying areas, people who like safer streets etc...

In Capital Bikeshare’s case, the answer is affluent white professionals.

Your answer is different than mine.

Capital Bikeshare’s own survey found that the average household income of its member in D.C. was $100,000 in 2014, well above the average of $65,000 for D.C. as a whole.

Oh, I see. You're ignoring the positive externalities and the fact that not all members are white, affluent or professionals. You can get the most wonderful answers when you ignore facts.

Fewer than two in 10 Capital Bikeshare riders had household income of $50,000 or less—roughly the nation’s median household income

That would be relevant if CaBi stretched out to Iowa, but DC's median income is $65,000 (as noted above) and the region's is $90,000, meaning the average CaBi user is only slightly wealthier than the average DC-area resident. Also, so what? 

Rather than subsidize a hipster nicety, wouldn’t it make more sense to prioritize mobility for low-income households, who overwhelmingly rely on cars and bus service?

So Heritage supports more funding of bus service? But to answer the question - if providing mobility to the poor was the only goal then maybe. But it isn't, so the question is stupid.

there is not a compelling reason why the federal government should be involved in funding them at all.

The federal government has a role in funding transportation.

given mass transit’s poor performance across the country—in part caused by federal subsidies—why would bikeshare proponents want to emulate that model?

I don't know how the claim that transit's poor performance (which Sargent just advocating putting more money into), if it is real, can be shown to be caused by federal subsidies, but bikeshare is not emulating that model.

Even more ironically, putting bikesharing on the federal dole will make riders dependent on the gas tax, placing car-averse cyclists and smart-growthers in the awkward position of needing more gas-guzzlers on the road to pay for their bikesharing systems.

Oh yes. Whatever shall we do without cars and gasoline use? This doesn't place supporters in the position of needing more gas guzzlers, if things get tough we can just raise the gas tax. And redirecting money that would have been spent on cars towards bikes is not awkward at all.

Instead, why not emulate New York City’s Citi bike program, which is funded by private capital and sponsorships? Alternatively, local businesses and developers could band together and cover the costs of bikeshare systems that make their location more attractive.

How's that working for them so far? CaBi does have sponsorships. Heritage is even building a station. And they do sell ads. But that's not "free". It's trading public space (and advertising within it) for money and then choosing to spend that money (which is fungible) on bikeshare. Bikeharing still isn't profitable with all of that. And certainly not enough to attract private capital - at least not to a system to serves all parts of the city. But that's Ok, because of other positive externalities that private capital doesn't care about. 

For environmentally minded urbanists, a local, market-based approach seems far more desirable than lining up at the trough of gasoline money funneled through the federal labyrinth.

From an environmental standpoint it probably makes little difference, but taking gas money away from more harmful uses probably helps. 

Dumping Snow on a Shoveled Sidewalk

Now that almost all the snow is gone, here's this from a bike commuter in Fairfax County. This is snow removal in Fairfax County. Scoop the snow up from a parking space and put over here in this unused space...problem solved.


NACTO Transit Street Design Guide aims to create more bike-friendly transit

NACTO, which released the influential Urban Bikeway Design Guide a few years ago, has now completed a Transit Street Design Guide. It's not out yet, but you can pre-order them.

Developed over the past year through the work of a new peer network of city and transit agency experts, and with the generous support of TransitCenterand the Summit Foundation, the Transit Street Design Guide empowers practitioners to design transit streets as linear public spaces. Sections highlight transit as the centerpiece of transformative street projects, integrating transit-walk-and-bike-friendly design elements like boarding islands with best-practice strategies - like multi-door boarding and transit-friendly signals - that can speed up an entire system. 

Screenshot 2016-02-02 at 10.43.22 PM

That would make a nice K Street or Connecticut Avenue.

For more, the Green Lanes Blog has a sneak peak

Meeting on Silver Spring separated bike lanes tomorrow night

Screenshot 2016-01-31 at 10.23.59 PM

Montgomery County is hosting a public meeting about proposed separated bike lanes on Spring and Cedar Streets in Silver Spring tomorrow night (7-9pm, Silver Spring Civic Center, Ellsworth Room, 1 Veterans Place).

The facility will connect the future Capital Crescent Trail to the future Silver Spring Green Trail along Wayne Avenue. BethesdaMagazine adds

Matt Johnson, the project manager, said county transportation planners will be looking for feedback on the proposal at the Feb. 2 meeting. He said MCDOT expects a cost estimate soon.

It would be the second separated bike lane project in Montgomery County, following a two-way separated bike lane that was installed in late 2014 on Woodglen Drive in White Flint.

The lanes on Spring and Cedar streets would include a buffer, possibly flex posts, between the bike lane and vehicle traffic.

Silver Spring is going to turn into a real bicycle crossroads if all the plans are brought to fruition. When completed, the CCT will connect to the Sarbanes Center as will the Metropolitan Branch Trail and the Silver Spring Green Trail. In the future the SSGT will be extended to the Sligo Creek Parkway and thus the Anacostia Tributary Trails. This separated bike lane would then serve as a northern alternative to the SSGT and would make a nice little downtown loop.

What's really needed after that is a direct east west connection between Sligo Creek and the WB&A Trail via College Park and Greenbelt. Then we'll have a real bicycle network north of DC. 

Toole Design assessed the trail plans for the trails along the Purple Line back in 2013. For the SSGT, they recommended that the path be 10 feet wide where public ROW is available or small amounts of private ROW can be acquired.

Locations where current plans suggest that a 10-foot width is possible within public ROW include the following:

• Between Springvale Road and Cloverfield Road

• Between Cloverfield Road and Greenbrier Drive.

• Between Silver Spring International Middle School (station 653+15) and station 656+62, to the east.

They add

Additionally, consideration should be given to a design cross section that would include a 3.5 foot buffer with a split rail wood fence (or other style wood fence) and a 9.5-11.5 foot wide asphalt path (varying based upon availability of public ROW). Because the path is on a significant slope, crosses a number of driveways and is adjacent to an arterial roadway, somewhat unique safety issues are present. It will be easy for a bicyclist to travel at a relatively high speed in the east bound direction (downhill); 15-25 mph. The five foot buffer may not provide adequate recovery space for an errant cyclist, especially a child or youth cyclist, causing them to cross the buffer, drop off the curb and enter the roadway against opposing traffic.

And they make a good point about the Sligo Creek Trail

TDG concurs with the concerns raised by Planning Staff. Additionally, TDG is aware that the Sligo Creek Trail was designed many years ago. In its current condition in this area, it is substandard in width, and it appears that the Purple Line project is not bringing the parts of the trail impacted by the project up to current standards. It is a best practice to have every capital transportation project improve the other transportation facilities in its area of impact. The Sligo Creek trail is expected to be a major feeder of bicycle and pedestrian traffic to the Purple Line, thus the Purple Line will result in increased trail traffic which the project should accommodate. Moreover, improving a portion of the Sligo Trail will encourage its use for Purple Line access and help ensure that Purple Line ridership projections are met.

Life Sciences Center Bicycle Network and Loop Trail

Screenshot 2016-01-28 at 11.48.58 PM

Yesterday, the Montgomery County Planning Board held hearings  on the Draft Life Sciences Center Bicycle Network Proposal and the Life Sciences Center (LSC) Loop Trail

The Life Sciences Center Bicycle Network Proposal would create a low-stress bicycling network that circulates throughout the Life Sciences Center area, connecting to the proposed Corridor Cities Transitway (CCT) stations, major destinations such as Crown Farm and Shady Grove Adventists Hospital, future activity centers such as the proposed Johns Hopkins University Belward Campus and a redeveloped Public Safety Training Academy site (PSTA), and to the surrounding residential neighborhoods. It also proposes two long term bicycle storage facilities at future CCT stations.

This proposal - like the White Flint Sector Plan - is being developed before the new Bicycle Master Plan because of the fast pace of change in this area. That way they don't miss out on opportunities to construct segments of a separated bike lane network. The White Flint Separated Bike Lane Network was discussed by the Planning Board on December 3, 2015. 

I can't say I know that area very well, so I can't critique this but that's a lot of bicycle facilities (see the map above). I especially like the long term bicycle parking stations next to the Corridor Cities transit stations. They show one of the Austin bike shelters, below, in the proposal

image from

The separated bike lane network consists of four major corridors

  1. The Northway Separated Bike Lane is an east-west bikeway that would travel along the proposed Belward Campus Drive and Decoverly Drive between Muddy Branch Road and Shady Grove Road.
  2. The Southway Separated Bike Lane is an east-west bikeway that would travel along existing and proposed segments of Blackwell Road between Darnestown Road and Shady Grove Road.
  3. The Midway Separated Bike Lane is a north-south bikeway that would travel along the proposed Broschart Road and Diamondback Drive between Medical Center Drive and the City of Gaithersburg.
  4. The Lower Loop Separated Bike Lane is a crescent-shaped bikeway that would travel along John Hopkins Drive, Medical Center Drive, and Omega Drive between the future Johns Hopkins Belward Campus and the City of Gaithersburg.

These are designed to coordinated with the LSC Loop Trail

The Montgomery County Life Sciences Center (LSC) Loop is a proposed 3.5-mile loop trail that will serve as an organizing element and place making feature for the Life Sciences Center district. Much more than a standard shared use path, the LSC Loop Trail will function as an identifiable public amenity that helps make the Life Sciences Center an attractive place to live, work and visit.

At the hearing they held out the Indianapolis Cultural Trail as a model for this and asked that the 2010 GSSC Urban Design Guidelines be revised by incorporating the 2015 LSC Loop Design Guidelines. A map of the proposed trail is below.

Screenshot 2016-01-29 at 12.12.01 AM

The trail will be 10-12 feet wide, often next to a separated bikeway or separated from one by trees. The design guidelines include information on plantings, pavement, way-finding, gateways, cross-sections, activity areas, intersections, etc...As an example here's what amenity areas might look like.

Screenshot 2016-01-29 at 12.20.19 AM

These are just design guidelines, but it all looks pretty cool. A pilot may be the first construction step.

To generate excitement about the trail and “test” the design, the County and any other implementing entities may wish to consider a pilot (or demonstration) project to construct one initial segment of the trail. One candidate segment to consider for a pilot project is the segment along Medical Center Drive adjacent to the National Cancer Institute. This segment is particularly relevant as a pilot project given its high profile (National Cancer Institute as an anchor), adjacent commercial uses, lack of technical constraints to constructing the trail, existing wide tree panel (which could accommodate amenity spaces within the public right-of-way), existing mature shade trees, and its visibility from Key West Avenue.

In addition to all of this, the network proposal includes some concept images of how the bike facilities, roads and transit could interact - including protected intersections

Screenshot 2016-01-29 at 12.05.22 AM

Screenshot 2016-01-29 at 12.07.06 AM

Saturday self-serving shoveling


My scoutmaster liked to tell the story of Col. George A. Taylor, the U.S. Army officer who arrived on Omaha Beach in a later wave. Finding a group of shell-shocked men, he yelled at them "There are two kinds of people who are staying on this beach: those who are dead and those who are going to die. Now let’s get the hell out of here." Which was my scoutmaster's way of saying that in the end, you usually have to get up off your ass and save yourself. To that end I am informally organizing a region-wide bike facility dig out. 

Here's how it will work. At 10:30am on Saturday morning I'm going to take my shovel to a bad spot on my bike commute (specifically the western approach to the north bike/ped lane on the Sousa Bridge. The path along the bridge is clear, but this approach, oddly, is not) and I'm going to spend 30 minutes digging it out. I'm inviting anyone who wants to put a dent in their bike commute to go out to their "bad spot" at the same time. Maybe you'll find someone else there with a shovel too. Maybe you can work together. Maybe you'll become friends and compete together on The Amazing Race (if that show is still on TV). Maybe you want to organize a more formal dig out of a facility - like the unplowed Mount Vernon Trail above. If so, let me know and I'll advertise it here. Or just leave in the comments the place you plan to go to and when and maybe things will organize more organically.

Maybe your bike commute has zero ice and lots of unicorns riding rainbows, but you're a swell person and you like shoveling snow so you would go to a more formally organized dig if you just knew where to go. Look to the comments I say.

[Technically I believe it is illegal to do work for the government for free, but I'm a rebel and yes, I am inciting other to break the law. That's how I roll, which is why I'm a perfect partner for your Amazing Race team.]

By the way, I'm not saying "Stop complaining and do something." I'm saying "keep complaining and do something." Perhaps with shame-inducing photos which you post to Twitter or snapblog or instaface or whatever it is the kids are using these days. Maybe include a witty hashtag like #lawbreakingshoveling or something. 

For his bravery at Omaha, Taylor earned the Distinguished Service Cross. For your service, you will earn a cup of hot cocoa, (which you will have to provide). 

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