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December 21, 2014

Piedmont man charged after viral video threatening cyclists

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Posted: Thursday, May 22, 2014 5:49 pm | Updated: 11:49 pm, Sun May 25, 2014.

Calhoun County sheriff's deputies arrested a Piedmont man Thursday after he posted videos of himself online allegedly endangering bicyclists on the roadway, clips that enraged cycling enthusiasts across the country.

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.

In a letter Maddox posted Thursday morning on his Facebook page however, he apologizes to anyone offended by his videos.

"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," Maddox wrote. "I am truly sorry for anyone I may have offended ... and please everyone share the road and be very aware of bicycle riders everywhere."

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.”

Within a couple of days, the videos were shared widely on Facebook and received many comments condemning them. The videos later made it to Twitter and were retweeted by cycling enthusiasts and organizations across the country angry about their content.

Darin Sims of DeArmanville, who said he appeared on his bicycle in two of the videos, said he did not take particular note of Maddox's driving at the time.

"It's not terribly uncommon that vehicles will drive up close to us," said Sims, who rides DeArmanville Road, where the videos appear to have been shot, a couple times a week.

Unfriendly territory

The anti-cycling videos come just weeks after the League of American Bicyclists, a Washington D.C.-based advocacy group, ranked Alabama last among the states in bicycle friendliness. The rankings are based largely on each state’s infrastructure and policies related to bikes. Meanwhile Anniston and other parts of Calhoun County are trying to become more bicycle friendly to encourage eco-tourism. Anniston hosts the Sunny King Criterium annually, and Jacksonville this year became host of the annual Cheaha Challenge Gran Fondo. Anniston also plans to add cycling lanes and traffic signs downtown to make the area safer for bicycle riders.

Mayor Vaughn Stewart said while there are anti-cyclists in Anniston, he doesn't think officials will have trouble promoting bicycle safety in the community.

"I think when we explain the health and wellness aspect and the potential economic development from it, I think it'll be a no-brainer," Stewart said. "We're blessed with our eco-resources and we're going to capitalize on that."

Bobby Phillips, president of the Anniston-based Northeast Alabama Bicycling Association, said Thursday that he had seen the videos.

"It's very shocking and many cyclists' first reaction will be to scream for the guy's head," Phillips said. "But that's not going to help anybody and could drive biking and non-biking people further apart."

Phillips said he was also aware of Maddox's apology and was willing to accept it at face value.

Phillips said the apparent annoyance of having to share the road with cyclists portrayed in the videos is still prevalent among many motorists. Phillips said it would help the community to encourage more awareness of safety and road-sharing rights.

"Cyclists, they have the same rights to roads as everybody else," Phillips said.

Phillips said his organization works to promote bicycle safety and awareness in the community.

Common problems

Andy Clarke, president of the League of American Bicyclists, said the level of annoyance and anger motorists have toward cyclists depends mainly on where people live.

"In cities where they are getting into cycling and have bike road-sharing programs, things are getting better quickly," Clarke said. "In more suburban and rural areas, conflicts for time and space and the road are still a big issue."

Clarke said one of his organization's main goals is to push for increased awareness and road safety between cyclists and motorists.

"Cyclists no more want to be in a driver's way than a driver wants them to be there," Clarke said.

Sims said that anger portrayed in the videos is not common for the area in his opinion.

"There is enough of that element to be disturbing, but we ride out here all the time and normally people are kind and courteous," Sims said.

Patrick Wigley, owner of Wigs Wheels in Anniston, said Thursday that he had seen the videos and that road sharing is still a problem. However, sometimes motorists have a right to be angry, Wigley said.

Cyclists sometimes abuse their rights on the road, blocking traffic in the process, Wigley said. Still, everyone should do a better job of sharing the roadways, he said.

"It's a matter of exercising patience and using common sense," he said.

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