A story has unfolded, in the state of Alabama this week, that illustrates a much larger problem in the ongoing debate between motorists and cyclists, over who “owns” the road. (An aside, we all do. The notion that cyclists don’t “pay taxes” for use of the road, because they aren’t specifically licensed is bunk. But I digress. I’ll have to write a separate article on why taxing everyone who annoys you is not the answer.)
Keith Maddox, of Piedmont, Alabama has a beef with cyclists. And, since he apparently can’t plan ahead well enough to accommodate the average 12 seconds of time it takes to safely follow a cyclist before having the opportunity to lawfully pass them, he decided to take his beef public.
Maddox followed up his first video with this gem…
After a number of cycling forums, in Alabama and across the country, shared the videos the conversation took the unfortunate turn that it usually does – the vitriol fired up on both sides, and little productive came from it.
Facing mounting pressure, and realizing the enormous reach the videos had gained, Maddox posted an apology on his Facebook wall:
“I want to publicly apologize to all people that I have offended over those absolute stupid videos that I posted … anybody who knows me knows that would never ever intentionally hurt anyone. I am truly sorry for anyone I may have offended … and please everyone share the road and be very aware of bicycle riders everywhere.”
But, it was too little, too late. Local law enforcement had picked up on the story. Last night, Patrick McReless reported, in the Anniston Star, that Maddox has been arrested by the Calhoun County Sheriff.
Keith Maddox of Piedmont was charged Thursday afternoon with reckless endangerment, a misdemeanor. His bond was set at $3,000, according to Matthew Wade, chief deputy of the Calhoun County Sheriff’s Office.
Maddox, who posted the videos on his Facebook page, the most recent on Tuesday, later took them down and apologized in response to the intense online backlash. Cycling enthusiasts and organizations across the country have commented online, condemning the comments in the videos and Maddox’s apparent disregard for the safety of several cyclists he passes in his vehicle. Some local and national bicycling advocates say the attitude portrayed in the videos is common and that more education is needed to improve safety for motorists and cyclists.
During a brief phone interview Thursday before his arrest, Maddox declined to comment about the situation, saying he was advised by an attorney not to speak on the matter.
“I feel like everyone is just going to take out anything I say and it’s going to just fuel the fire,” Maddox said.
The videos depict Maddox driving along DeArmanville Road, complaining that cyclists in front of him are making it difficult for him and others to get to work. He also says in the videos that he hates cyclists and at one point appears to pull his vehicle closely alongside one cyclist before speeding away.
“I oughta run him in the ditch is what I should have done,” he says in one of the videos. “I should have put him in the ditch. God, I hate bicycles.”
It won’t surprise you to know that Alabama ranks last among the states for cycling friendliness, according to the League of American Bicyclists.
But the greater problem here, is the complete lack of respect for a fellow human being. They’re cyclists. It’s a few seconds. It’s time for everyone to relax, and value life over your right to be outraged. Have we really, as a society, reached such a level of making it all about us, that we are willing to foolishly risk the life of another human being to make sure the world knows that we’re annoyed? Things are out of control. Anger needs better management. While one could argue that Keith Maddox is an isolated incident, just ask any cyclist (or motorcyclist, for that matter). Nearly every one of them will tell you they’ve experienced this kind of motorist. It’s time for us all to speak up, and take a more level-headed approach.
Share the road, folks. The life of another human being is well worth a few seconds of your time.