Fitchburg Road Rage: Two allege man in Jaguar ran them off the road

Joe Maloney and Max Ackerman, two elite-level cyclists, wound up in the ditch along S. Fitchburg Road with concussions and other injuries after a confrontation with a motorist Aug. 26.

Fitchburg police are working to determine how they got there.

Did the men on bikes initiate the contact with a black Jaguar on the narrow, two-lane road, or were they victims of an angry driver?

Max Ackerman racing for the University of Wisconsin - Madison cycling team.

The man driving the Jaguar, John Dohm, of Madison, says Maloney and Ackerman swerved into his car as he attempted to pass them on a straight stretch of road about 4 o’clock in the afternoon. The cyclists were riding side-by-side and shouted obscenities twice during their confrontation near Adams Road, south of Madison, Dohm told police at the scene.

He also said he stopped his car after initially passing them, got out and tried to talk with the cyclists, then collided with them. Dohm’s account is part of a report prepared by the two Fitchburg police officers who investigated the crash.

Maloney and Ackerman told police the 61-year-old driver honked at them, buzzed them and attempted to confront them on foot, before he revved his engine and forced them off the road. Scuff marks on the side of the Jaguar confirmed the car and the bikes collided.

After taking statements from all Dohm and the two injured cyclists, the police officers issued no citations.

The initial police determination sparked outrage among people who ride bikes and read Maloney’s blog detailing the confrontation and crash.

Anyone with more than a few miles in the saddle seems to have a similar story about being buzzed or hit by an angry driver, and a complaint about a lack of police response.

In this case, police picked up the investigation.

Supervisors directed the officers to gather additional statements from Dohm, Maloney, Ackerman and two witnesses who accused Dohm of driving aggressively before colliding with the cyclists. Neither witness saw the crash that sent Maloney and Ackerman into the ditch.

But one witness said Dohm had been driving “recklessly,” at a high speed earlier that afternoon on Seminole Highway.

Another witness, a woman on a bike behind Maloney and Ackerman, told police Dohm honked at her several times as he passed her going south. She arrived at the crash site after the collision occurred.

Dohm’s explanation to police: he honked three times at the cyclists to alert them and to signal they should yield to him.

Here’s a view of Fitchburg Road, near the crash site.

Dohm’s record on Wisconsin roads includes two convictions for drunken driving and two for driving without a valid license (revoked twice). Those cases span from 2005 through 2008.

Fitchburg Police Lt. Chad Brecklin said he expected to complete the investigation by the end of this week and determine the next action: refer the case to the district attorney for prosecution, issue citations or follow the initial determination and issue no citations.

Maloney, 25, and a mountain bike racer from Washington, said he wants to be compensated for his medical bills and his $7,000 road bike.

He also wants “justice for the cycling community. This happens way too often. It’s insane,” he said.

Ackerman, 20, a Whitefish Bay High School grad and economics student at the University of Wisconsin -Madison, has hired cycling attorney Daniel Goldberg to review potential civil action against Dohm.

“We are pleased that the City of Fitchburg Police Department recognizes the seriousness of the allegations and has decided to conduct a more thorough investigation,” said Goldberg, who serves on the Wisconsin Bike Fed Board of Directors. “Motorists need to know that there are both civil and criminal consequences to irresponsible and dangerous behavior.”

Regardless of the outcome, the incident highlights the need for people driving cars and people  riding bikes to follow the rules of the road and act appropriately.

Wisconsin law allows people on bikes to ride side-by-side if they don’t impede traffic. Maloney and Ackerman told police they moved into a single-file line after Dohm honked his horn at them. He also told police that Dohm had a clear lane to pass, with no oncoming traffic on the narrow road.

State law requires people driving cars to give a person on a bicycle at least three feet of clearance and to maintain that distance to pass safely. The scuff marks on the Jaguar provide strong evidence the law was violated.

More rules of the road can be found in the Wisconsin Bike Fed Share & Be Aware information.

Similar case: A man who allegedly drove over a $2,000 Surly fat bike and a child carrier attachment in La Crosse is scheduled to appear in court Sept. 16, on charges of criminal damage to property and disorderly conduct.

Daniel Lexvold, 36, of La Crosse, told police the man riding the bike threw it in front of his truck during a confrontation on Bliss Road. The bicyclist said he left the bike in the road to escape  to the safety of the sidewalk with his son when Lexvold edged his truck forward and hit them. A witness confirmed the man on the bike’s version of the confrontation.

17 thoughts on “Fitchburg Road Rage: Two allege man in Jaguar ran them off the road

  1. “Regardless of the outcome, the incident highlights the need for people driving cars and people riding bikes to follow the rules of the road and act appropriately.”

    So how exactly does this incident highlight the need for people riding bikes to follow the rules of the road? Because that’s exactly what the two involved people on bikes did, and as a result they ended up in the ditch, injured, their bikes destroyed. Guess they violated the rule of existing-while-riding-a-bike.

    • You make a good point Harald. I wrote with a broader intent and you correctly pointed out that the cyclists did act properly, according to their statements to police. I think Cotton M conveyed my thinking better than I did. It is a reminder of how quickly and innocently (on the part of the bicyclists) an incident can escalate.

  2. Seems like Dohm has a history of aggressive vehicular actions, including a case in which he allegedly “buzzed” his neighbor’s house with a helicopter after a dispute:

    I think anybody can see what happened on that stretch of road. Having money and a fancy Jaguar clearly doesn’t buy you strong character.

  3. Harold, I think discretion is the better part of valor here for the cyclist. Reacting to aggressive drivers rarely turns out well for us when we ride. It just antagonizes these already po’d drivers. Hell he might have even had a gun.

    • So what you are in effect saying is that we as cyclists should run around cowering, head bowed in submission, tugging our forelock and saying “Yassuh massah” whenever we have an encounter with a motorist because “it rarely turns out well for us” and “(the driver) might have even had a gun”?

      That goes both ways, you know.  Wisconsin does allow concealed carry, and — not that I’m encouraging this, of course — as a cyclist I could very easily have something other than a Clif bar and a patch kit in MY jersey pocket too.


      • Bill, nobody is advising people to cower and we are certainly not blaming the victims, but we do want people to be safe. Sadly, in today’s world of road rage, sometimes that means avoiding conflict. Bike Fed Board Member and attorney specializing in defending people involved in crashes while riding bicycles had this advice in this previous blog post about road rage:
        “If you’re harassed by a driver, do whatever you can to avoid confrontation. Get the license plate number and a description of the car and the person driving. Be sure to report the problem to the police as soon as possible. Even without video evidence, local municipalities WILL investigate these incidents and can issue reckless driving charges where appropriate. It becomes much more difficult for the police when the driver or other witnesses claim the victim on the bicycle was aggressive, offensive, or obnoxious. Don’t let it become a case of “offsetting fouls.” Staying calm will help make your case and may even save your life since no one knows who’s in the car or what they’ve got with them.”

  4. Thanks for including the La Crosse story. I believe all these incidents show that Wisconsin bicyclists need their own SAFE infrastructure such as PROTECTED BIKE LANES (pbls) in towns and cities and separate bike lanes, especially where rural roadways are narrow and/or without shoulders. We can argue with aggressive drivers about who has legal rights to certain stretches of pavement all we want, but they are driving lethal weapons and we will always lose. In my community, it appears almost everone has taken over sidewalks as pbls. Especially if we want to create a safe cycling environment for kids and novice riders, we need safe, separated infrastructure AND much better enforcement of current laws AND much harsher penalties for harassing, scaring, brushing, sideswiping, and especially KILLING cyclists.

  5. The La Crosse story:

    I rode by just after it happened, then stopped and spoke with Joshua Miner and his boys to offer assistance. Joshua’s bike was totalled - bent frame, bent chain stays, crank arms broken off…The boys said they were OK, Joshua was on the phone to police, and a witness (neighborhood resident) was present. I did not witness the incident, the driver had already left the scene, but Lexvold’s story does not pass the sniff test. Perhaps the driver should have also been charged with hit and run?

  6. A word of caution on your headline. Though it appears the driver has rage issues and entitlement issues, the term “road rage” carries the implication that both parties were at fault. Police will routinely fail to charge if they feel that both parties played a role in escalating an incident. It is complicated even further when police dispatchers label the call “road rage” based on getting conflicting calls from two parties. It is understandable that police call takers are trying to link two calls that come in separately, but using the term “road rage” injects an element of bias. Officers feel they are in a no win situation when it boils down to a “he said, she said” situation, if it is only a verbal confrontation. But with evidence of injury and property damage, I commend the Fitchburg supervisor for continuing the investigation. If the officer is not a cyclist, he or she may fail to understand the vulnerability cyclists experience in these incidents with enraged drivers. Which is why I advocate that all cops should also ride bikes on the job. In a community like ours, each officer having a bike should be at least as important as each officer having a rifle.

    As a retired cop who rode on duty and off, and continues to ride, I have a few suggestions. Be up front about swearing at or flipping off a rude driver, but that in now way invalidates a complaint that a driver put your life at risk. Better of course to not shout obscenities, but hey, I’m only human. And secondly, witnesses were very important in this case. Many people are willing to help make a case against an aggressive and unsafe driver. But sometimes they are in short supply when a pickup truck runs you off the road at that hairpin on Hefty Rd. Keep your Go Pros on or consider taking video with your phone. It may not be important in your incident, but video of previous incidents involving the same vehicle, would be extremely valuable if these drivers ever do real harm, as they did in Fitchburg.

    • Interesting insight from the perspective of a law enforcement official. Thanks for sharing that perspective.

  7. I am the female cyclist which is referred to in this article. Only by sheer fate was I not hit. I am completely outraged that this guy has not been fined with a substantial fine.

    As I said in my report I was completely riding way to the right of the road when this Mr Dohm honked his horn at me, blew by me over the speed limit and gave absolutely no lee way despite the fact that there were no other vehicles coming from the other way. If I had swerved just an inch I would have been hit by him.

    What was more irritating was the fact that when I stopped to help the boys who were hit this Mr Dohm told me that we cyclist should not be on the road as that is what the bike path was for. He clearly had a vendetta for anyone who was riding a bicycle that day and was going to spin any story to make it seem that it was us, the cyclists, not him that was at fault.

    I am so so enraged and thankful that Bike Fed posted this as I will proceed to call the Fitchburg police and see if I can demand that this character at least in some way be made accountable for
    his aggressive mindset and actions. If he is not made accountable, I guarantee you some cyclist or cyclists will become a fatality if they run into him on the road.

    • Debbie, thank you for following through with what you experienced and wittnessed. As Sgt Dexter mentioned in his comment, wittnesses are so important in these situations. Hopefully something can be done to discourage Mr. Dohm from ever doing this again. I don’t have a lot of hope having read his court history and other media stories which indicate he has a long history of this sort of behavior.

      • I think what bothered me the most about the incident is that the increase in this type of behavior by motorists towards cyclists has been rapidly escalating over the past 5 years. I have been both riding and racing in the area for the past 40 years. I have ridden with the likes of Eric Heiden, Bob Mionske and other notable cyclists who rode these same roads with no injuries or irate motorists. There is a huge problem that is growing in the Madison area which needs to be addressed in a much more aggressive manner than has been happening in the past few years.

  8. So from the info all parties seem to agree on, driver honks at cyclists legally using the roadway, stops to confront them outside of the car, then passes them again and in the process hits them and sends them into a ditch. At the very least, as the story points out, aren’t the bicycle marks on the car prima facia evidence a violation of the three foot law and isn’t the fact that the driver apparently sought out a confrontation with the cyclists then hit them pretty strong evidence of intent that would warrant battery or reckless endangerment charges or at the very least reckless driving? Seems like at the very least a citation would be a no brainier.

  9. The post (from September 10) indicates the investigation was to be complete “by the end of this week” (September 12). It is now September 22. Do we have a follow up report?

    • Steve, I have been checking with the Fitchburg police daily. They are still tying up a few loose ends but expect to have an answer soon. That’s not unusual in cases like this, but it can be frustrating. I’ll have a post up as soon as I get word from the police.

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