A Guy Riding His Bike Gets Hit By An Owl And …

We met this sweet little owl at Lake Artemesia a few years ago.

Won-ok and I are out walking on the Sligo Creek trail the other day when we strike up a conversation with Mark Holsley. We start trading stories about bicycle crashes. We all crash. We all have stories. His may be the best! Check out our YouTube interview with the biker who got hit by an owl.

You may need to crank up your audio, though: we had to use sticks for microphones.

While most people will find this a light-hearted story that ends well for the owl, a few people have accused us of supporting bicycle crashes into wildlife, and crashing in general. Let us be very clear, and we can’t believe we even have to state this: it is the official position of Eye On Sligo Creek that we are anti crashing into wildlife! Whenever you have the chance to NOT get hit by flying owls or jumping deer, we strongly recommend that you NOT get hit by flying owls or jumping deer.

Yet other people have suggested that the owl crasher in question (and, to be clear, it was the owl who didn’t have the right of way) doesn’t know how to use brakes, has poor balance, etc. They boast of having never crashed on a bike before.

Guess what?

We happened to run into — make that “passed alongside” — the same owl crasher in question again today. He reports that in his 67 years of life on the planet, and in riding a bike since he was a kid, that was the first and only time he ever had an accident on a bike.

While I’m perched nice and high on my soapbox, let me add that I’ve been a bike rider for about 40 years. The Washington Area Bicyclist Association (WABA) would be very proud of me — though I realize now that I haven’t sent a contribution in a long time. [Breaking news: I just renewed my membership online and encourage you to join, too!] I always wear a helmet and gloves. I always use my bell to alert people when I’m approaching from behind, and I call out “on your left” in the process. I actually stop at red lights and stop signs. I never use my phone while I’m in the saddle. I utilize a flashing red light on the back of my bike to alert drivers approaching me. I also possess cat-like reflexes and exceptional balance. Despite all of this, I still sometimes crash! They’re called “accidents” for a reason. They happen, by definition, “unexpectedly or unintentionally.”

Sligo Creek Trail bicycle rider Mark Holsley endured a bicycle crash when an owl barrelled into him.
Mark Holsley shows us where an owl hit his arm. He protected the bird but paid the price by eating some asphalt.

When I crashed hard enough a few years ago to warrant my first bicycling-related trip to the emergency room, the ER doc expressed genuine shock when I told him it was my first time.

“You were way overdue,” he said. “I’m surprised it took this long.”

I crashed that day because I rounded a bush on a sidewalk while traveling all of about 3 miles per hour, hit an unseen mud slick, crashed headfirst into the aforementioned sidewalk. My helmet saved my life but I broke my collar bone and some ribs. I later ended up with pulmonary embolisms and damn near died. That was a bit of a downer, to be honest, but that’s another story for another time. I’ve also crashed multiple times, by accident, because my brakes worked perfectly enough to stop me from running into wildlife! I brake for squirrels, deer, geese, and slithering snakes. I’ve even gone pavement diving while trying to avoid cats darting in front of me — and I’m a dog guy!

I don’t think anybody, though, has the skill to avoid an off-trajectory owl. I don’t think WABA has a class for that, either.

Do you have a great story about life on the Sligo Creek Trail or any of the Anacostia River tributary trails — preferably one that doesn’t involve wildlife crashes? We want to hear it! Contact us today! 

Mark Holsley survived a bicycle crash with an owl — and lived to tell the tale. More importantly, the owl was unharmed!


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