Driver plows into Maryland peloton, killing one, catastrophically injuring another, and changing the lives of dear friends.
The Washington Post, Capital Gazette, and Baltimore Sun (amongst others) don’t tell what we feel are the important parts of the story explaining the catastrophic and fatal crash caused by motorist Carl Leslie Behler (driving a 2015 GMC Yukon XL) when he crossed the double yellow and hit 7 of our dear friends who were riding in Southern Maryland head-on this past Sunday, March 8th, 2020.
A few weeks ago I spent the day with some friends at the Bike Maryland Symposium in Annapolis. We had comprehensive conversations about the things needed to change the existing and unacceptable conditions that come with riding a bicycle in Maryland and across the nation.
Years ago, Josh Feldmark, Director of Bike Maryland, introduced us to Kim Lamphier, the warrior bike advocate whose tenacity and inspiring leadership is the electrifying undercurrent behind much of the legislative advocacy being done today. Her passing in August 2019 to a year-long battle with cancer was a loss that the community refused to accept in vain; her torch is carried by those who denounce the idea that change won’t come; who are unrelenting in their commitment to making that so; who choose to ride a bicycle in the face of adversity and injustice because bravery and freedom are always more powerful than fear and defeat.
On Sunday afternoon (March 8th, 2020), 7 of our friends (Josh’s, Kim’s, mine and Peter’s) were taking advantage of a beautiful 70 degree spring day. As Maryland natives, Peter and I relate to the excitement that comes with bicycling’s most ideal weather forecast. The B&A Trail is well known to local riders and the area around Sandy Point State Park (not too far from Annapolis in Southern Maryland) is one well traveled by veteran and novice bicyclists alike.
Group riding (most of you know our feelings about why it’s such a special thing) makes recreational and competitive cycling an enthusiast’s dream. There is no better way to make and celebrate friendships than by spending time in the saddle with others. The hive mentality kicks in, the wind doesn’t have to be at your back, and riding chatter (or complete silence) harmonizes with the unmistakable sound of bike tires on the pavement, creating a soundtrack that makes burning quads a welcomed symptom of freedom and joy, not one affiliated with suffering. We’ve said before that riding a bicycle isn’t suffering. Things like the plague and famine are, right?
Heading westbound and hugging the far right side of East College Parkway, riding single file while running front and rear Cycliq video camera lights, our friends were almost ⅔ of the way into a 33 mile ride. Heading eastbound on the other side of the frontage road was motorist Carl Leslie Behler, operating his 7,000+ lb 2015 GMC Yukon XL. Cycling isn’t suffering unless the driver of a massive, 3.5 ton truck steers his vehicle across the double yellow line and plows head-on into peloton leader, Air Force Veteran, husband, father, grandfather, and friend, Arthur Carter Jr. (59), killing him on impact. Directly behind Arthur, Jeff Adler (58), suffered life threatening injuries requiring him to be airlifted to Shock Trauma where his wife, Deb, and teenage son keep constant vigil as they helplessly watch Jeff continue to fight for his life following two massive surgeries, an amputation, and more to come. Kathleen Hayes, 3rd in line when Carl Behler drove his SUV into her and her friends at approximately 12:36 in the broad daylight hour of the early afternoon, was transported by ambulance to Shock Trauma as well, suffering injuries requiring immediate emergency and follow up care. If you were to ask the remaining bicyclists in the group to describe what occurred at mile 19 of their Sunday ride, they would all find it difficult to do because of the immeasurable and life-taking/ life-changing suffering caused by Carl Behler.
Candy Carter is not “only” Arthur’s widow. She is his highschool sweetheart. They were married for 41 years (a couple for 43). She was his best friend and partner in all things. She is the mother of their two adult children and two young grandchildren. They traveled the world together when Arthur was in the Air Force with Candy happily encouraging and supporting his passion for the bicycle and his strength and skills as her mountain-loving climber with an honest, hardworking, compassionate, patriotic, and joyful spirit. Arthur was on a training ride for an endurance race later this year when Carl Behler killed him. Famine and the plague would cause less suffering than Carl Behler for the Carter family.
- While every cyclist we represent has a personal impact on us and the way we do our jobs, this particular crash has a distinctly unique and chilling effect. There are no degrees of separation. The suffering is geometric and the victims (deceased, fighting for life, and the loved ones paralyzed by the helplessness of such tragic and avoidable loss) are not just people we know and love, but active bike advocates who have devoted themselves to protecting and fighting for the rights and lives of every member of our dynamic bicycle community.
- We feel a heightened compulsion for the pursuit of real justice.
- Our plea to everyone reading this brings us to our knees. There is nothing more sacred than life; there’s nothing that can ever replace Arthur Carter’s and nothing that will ever change the diminished quality of his wife Candy’s now that he is gone. Her heartbreak and all-consuming loss must be met with the greatest of respect and compassion. Jeff Adler should be free to fight for his life without assumption, opinion, and innuendo. Deb Adler should never have to worry about what members of our community might feel compelled to say about this crash and the man she cannot imagine living without. The privacy of these grieving families and injured cyclists should be respected. Our plea is to honestly consider how you would want others to behave if this happened to you or someone you love. Give these cyclists- our friends- and their wives, children, families, and friends a fighting chance to do more than merely survive what Carl Behler did to them on Sunday afternoon. Allow the police, State’s Attorneys, and Prosecutors an opportunity to complete their investigations and make the right decisions in charging and punishing Carl Behler appropriately.
We commit to posting updates as we are able. We ask for you to wait patiently for our call to action. It’s coming. We would like you to keep Jeff in your daily thoughts as he continues on a complicated road to a recovery we believe he can make. And we ask that you continue to ride your bicycles. Every mile you spend in the saddle adds to the gentle tailwind Candy, Deb, Jeff, Kathleen, the rest of the group, their families, and our Bike Law Maryland team need to help us up this very long hill.