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Police say Portlander Boyd Littell fell from his bike, then died in Colonel Summers Park

Posted by on November 1st, 2017 at 2:00 pm

Courier Boyd Littell and his work bike-12.jpg

Boyd Littell in 2016.
(Photo: J. Maus/BikePortland)

A man who was well-known among many in Portland for his cycling and musical prowess has died.

40-year-old Boyd Littell was found early Tuesday morning in Colonel Summers Park. The police confirmed his identity a few minutes ago and said he likely died after falling from his bicycle.

We’ve also heard something similar from a source close to Boyd: That he crashed while riding his bike, hit his head, walked over to the park, lay down, and never woke up.

I met Boyd for the first time in January 2016. I was on a break from work at the Stumptown on SW 3rd Avenue downtown when his bike caught my eye. Boyd worked as a messenger (when he wasn’t playing drums in his popular band ADDverse Effects) and rode a highly customized, white Klein road bike with flat bars, carbon tri-spike wheels, lots of personal flair and an obviously courier-influenced aesthetic. I ended up chatting with him for a while and shared a little profile of him here on BikePortland. He seemed like a very creative and interesting guy. And today, reading through all the tributes to him from friends on his Facebook page, he was even more creative and interesting than I ever knew.

Dee Branham, co-owner of a local courier company and friend of Boyd’s, tells us Boyd made his final radio dispatch at 8:30 pm on Monday from Yur’s Bar & Grill. Dee and others are looking for people who might have seen or talked to Boyd between then and when he was found on Tuesday morning. If you know anything, get in touch and we’ll connect you with Dee.

Our thoughts are with Boyd’s family and friends. May he rest in peace.

UPDATE: Here’s a memoriam sent to us via email by a member of Boyd’s family:

Boyd Littell, found in SE Portland park, 40 years old, died of a bike accident

He was Susan [None Binkley] Greer’s dearly loved brother. Keever’s uncle. He was Bob Littell’s son. His mother’s [Jaquine Hudson Bly] baby, and older sister Morgan’s [Rogers] little brother. He so revered his late brother. He was the time keeper for so many dance classes over the years, at OU and Modern Dance Arts, and others. He was the band mate of the most talented musicians in this town. He was a romantic, with the prettiest, most talented girlfriends, and he was so many’s good, great, best friend. If you knew Boyd, there were too many friends to count, mutual friends, that you had in common, that you respected for their choices, their talent, their inspiration. Now Boyd’s gone, but I want you to know, how he was special. Any of us could tell lots of stories about our friend, his friends, our mutual friends, and the good times that we had. But let me leave you with this: Bob Littell, Gee’s dad, always had his eye out for a beautiful cloud formation in the sky, and on a good day, nothing could get better than the beauty he found in the clouds, and he passed that appreciation of beauty to Boyd, and every time Boyd stopped to talk, to update me on his life, his music, his challenges and his successes, when there was a beautiful cloud in the sky, you could feel that special connection Boyd had to his dad, and the beauty he found in his life. That he passed, probably looking skyward, possibly searching for his closest connections above, is only fitting, and comforting, in this horribly saddening moment of our loss. Remember Boyd when you look to the sky, and know his kind thoughts are with us, as we grieve his passing.

You were cared about, you were loved, your friendship and attention was appreciated and cherished, by oh so many. We are all so sad, as we gather various places to celebrate your too short life.

From his ADDverse Effects friends
From his Mama Sweet friends
From his Dance School friends
From his The Ils friends
From some of the prettiest girls in town

we will miss you, we cherish you, we promise to embrace your “joie de vivre,” exemplar that you could be. Thanks, kind, caring friend. We love you. Thanks for touching our lives.

Such sad news, [the evening before my 67th birthday,] from Colonel Summers Park, near Southeast Belmont Street and Southeast 20th Avenue before 7:43 a.m., October 31, 2017.

For more on Boyd, read this post from the Portland Mercury.

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and jonathan@bikeportland.org

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47 Comments
  • bikeninja November 1, 2017 at 2:16 pm

    I would hope Boyd deserves the dignity of a better diagnosis than ” he fell, hit his head, and died.” Often the fall is the symptom of something else and not the cause. It is probably the choice of his family, but an autopsy seems wise in a case like this.

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    • Brewcaster November 1, 2017 at 3:28 pm

      One was done. Fractured skull at back of head.

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    • brewcaster November 1, 2017 at 3:32 pm

      family statement:
      So here is what we know about Gee’s death. He had a bad bike wreck and cracked his skull. He picked up his bike and walked it across the street. Laid down and died. There was no violence involved in his death. His bike was next to him and there was money in his pocket.
      We are working on some plans to celebrate his life. As soon as I have a place and time I will post it. As of now, I would like to have it the Friday after thanksgiving.
      Please don’t hesitate to share or contact me. I’ll be writing his obit today and will start writing his eulogy. I have a good list of the bands he has played in, created and kicked out off. But please post here so I can get it all down.
      Like you, I loved my brother with every fiber in my being.

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      • bikeninja November 1, 2017 at 4:17 pm

        My heartfelt sympathy, we would all like to believe that it can never be over for any of us that quickly and unexpectedly.

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      • dan November 1, 2017 at 4:33 pm

        I’m so sorry to hear this, my condolences to his family and friends.

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      • Alan 1.0 November 1, 2017 at 8:09 pm

        Black humor in the face of unthinkable tragedy – that speaks volumes to me (in a good way). Peace and strength to all Boyd’s family and friends.

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      • Carla Mann November 1, 2017 at 8:40 pm

        For the past few years, Boyd had subbed in as a musician for dance classes at Reed College, where I teach. This fall, he had started to play regularly for us, and we were so happy and lucky to have his immense musical talent and generous, beautiful self in our midst. We are so stunned and saddened by this news . . . we hold Boyd in our hearts and send his family and loved ones our very best thoughts.

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      • wsbob November 2, 2017 at 12:34 am

        So sad. Fractured skull at back of head, but still conscious, still walking for a brief period, and then suddenly, everything shuts down.

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  • soren November 1, 2017 at 3:00 pm

    My thoughts are with Boyd’s family and friends.

    The carpet of leaves on Salmon near Col Summers can be treacherous.

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    • Kyle Banerjee November 2, 2017 at 9:46 am

      This is truly sad. He was far too young.

      Not that it’s relevant, but that would be a highly unusual injury to sustain from the kinds of washout crashes leaves cause — endo seems far more likely. Recent storms have left sticks on paths and roads. Hit just right, one could easily kick into his front wheel, instantly locking it and throwing him over.

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      • jeff November 3, 2017 at 4:10 pm

        apparently you haven’t crashed much on your bike. you can hit your head any number of ways from losing a front or rear wheel.

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        • Kyle Banerjee November 3, 2017 at 4:54 pm

          An experienced cyclist cracking the back of his skull on a washout? Please educate me on this.

          Endo due to something caught in the front — particularly with the forward weight bias on his rig — seems overwhelmingly more likely.

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  • Eric Leifsdad November 1, 2017 at 4:50 pm

    This is sad, but also hard to believe that someone with seemingly so much experience would have a fatal wreck without any external factors. This article makes it look like it hasn’t been seriously investigated as a traffic death. The PPD article does mention Traffic Division, but not “Major Crash Team” as usual. It sounds like it’s being dismissed as a fluke accident. This (however unlikely) may be the case, but that should be a conclusion reached by investigation, not simply assumed “because bike”. Why is it assumed that there were no other vehicles involved? e.g. crashed while avoiding a car whose driver did not stop? http://www.portlandoregon.gov/police/news/read.cfm?id=88614

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    • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) November 1, 2017 at 5:08 pm

      rest assured Eric. We will find out if there’s anything else than what the police have reported. That being said, the police are experts at analyzing crashes. It’s rare for them to come to a conclusion like this, so I assume they had good reason to make the determination. I also know Boyd had some very smart friends who will not simply take the police line as fact. Stay tuned. if there’s anything else to report, you’ll read it here.

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    • Kyle Banerjee November 1, 2017 at 7:00 pm

      Sometimes things just happen — no one necessarily needs to do anything wrong. Besides, even very experienced riders can make basic mistakes.

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  • chris November 1, 2017 at 6:16 pm

    Damn, I knew him from work, he was so nice. RIP

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  • K'Tesh November 1, 2017 at 8:04 pm

    Praying for his friends and family…

    Rest in Peace Boyd

    God Bless!

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  • Joe November 2, 2017 at 8:41 am

    RIP homie… we ride for you always

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  • Steve November 2, 2017 at 9:41 am

    OK, I’ll do it…Was he wearing a helmet? Would it even have helped? I am not at all a proponent of mandatory helmet laws, but could this be a teachable moment? Here is an exceedingly experienced cyclist involved in an apparent fluke accident. I don’t want to be cast as blaming the victim, was just thinking about how to talk about this with my kids.

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    • Steve Scarich November 2, 2017 at 9:51 am

      Fair question and worthwhile debate. I don’t wear a helmet and ride 8000 miles a year. I won’t get into my reasons for not wearing one, because I realize those that disagree won’t buy it. But, it is accidents like this, seemingly random, ‘landed the wrong way’ wrecks, that can happen to anyone, that get me thinking of putting the sweaty smelly helmet back on and just living with my objections to them.

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      • wsbob November 2, 2017 at 11:34 am

        It’s tough for people when there isn’t a helmet available to them that isn’t foul in some way, stinky, smelly, too small, etc. Under those circumstances, and there probably is a fair number of them, it’s understandable that such a person would not like wearing a helmet. Whatever your reasons for electing not to wear a helmet while riding, I hope one day they’ll be resolved and you’ll have an appealing option for some head protection available to you.

        This blow to the back of his head Boyd Littell is said to have sustained in the crash, sounds odd to me. I never really thought about point of impact most likely to occur in a crash…beyond more or less assuming it would generally be to the top or the front. It must have been some heavy duty blow.

        I wonder what physical thing happened. Brain swelling, or bleeding? I wonder what could have been done, whether he was by himself. If someone had been there, it seems like they would have advised him not to move, maybe get ice to help slow any swelling until emergency got there.

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        • Damon November 5, 2017 at 12:50 am

          I work in a trauma center, and while I don’t know the specifics of this case, it is uncommon for the skull fracture to have contributed to his demise, but it is more indicative to the level of force that his head took. A likely scenario would have been something like a subarachnoid hemorrhage and/or a subdural hematoma which also might explain the acute change from walking around to undesponsiveness. Some folks on this thread have questioned the severity of the injury from falling of a bike and I see injuries like this from ground level falls all too frequently.

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        • wsbob November 5, 2017 at 10:44 am

          Damon…thanks for the input. In layman’s terms, I’m thinking what you wrote here, generally would mean the brain bleeding inside the skull:

          “…A likely scenario would have been something like a subarachnoid hemorrhage and/or a subdural hematoma which also might explain the acute change from walking around to undesponsiveness. …” damon

          And of course, ground level falls, the type of fall a person could sustain from walking and tripping, falling down, impacting head on stairs, onto a curb, that sort of thing. Riding along on a bike and for whatever reason, losing balance and falling off the bike, hitting head on some hard surface.

          I think it’s important for everyone riding to know that bike helmets are tested for six foot drops onto several different hard surfaces. The protection they can offer the wearer’s head from a fall, is limited, and no guarantee of absolute protection against brain injury, but it seems to me that bike helmet foam may well offer some useful reduction in degree of impact to people’s heads and their brain within, if and when they do take go down off the bike.

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    • Kyle Banerjee November 2, 2017 at 12:48 pm

      The main thing is just to be mindful.

      In the case at hand, that means each person must decide whether the costs (hassle, comfort, actual cost, etc) of wearing a helmet is worth the benefit it provides — namely partial or full mitigation of head injury in certain types of crashes.

      If someone accepts the risks of doing something, they didn’t make a mistake if they get burned on the risk. On the other hand, if they think they made a mistake because they got burned, it means they didn’t really accept the risks and made a poor choice.

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      • m November 2, 2017 at 1:47 pm

        These are the same type of arguments people used to make when the push for mandatory seatbelts was happening.

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        • Kyle Banerjee November 2, 2017 at 3:32 pm

          Is your point that helmets should be required by law, or do you object to the logic that people should make decisions based on a cost/benefit analysis?

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          • m November 2, 2017 at 5:21 pm

            I think mandatory helmet laws make sense. I am familiar with the arguments against but still side on mandatory, just as seatbelts should be mandatory.

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            • Dan A November 3, 2017 at 10:20 am

              And you argue for mandatory helmet laws for ladder users, rock climbers, car passengers, soccer players, ice skaters, roller bladers and skateboarders too, right?

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        • John Lascurettes November 2, 2017 at 4:47 pm

          I’m fine with a compulsory helmet law for bicycle riders provided the state also requires helmets for driving or riding in a motor vehicle. Until then, nope. And I say this as someone that wears a helmet on every commute (though I opt to not wear one for neighborhood tooling around sometimes).

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          • m November 2, 2017 at 5:18 pm

            Using that logic, bicycle riders would also need to be strapped in with seatbelts to be consistent. Ok with that?

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            • Mark November 2, 2017 at 5:39 pm

              False equivalence. Motorcycle operators are not required to use seatbelts.

              Nice try.

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            • B. Carfree November 2, 2017 at 6:40 pm

              The logic of mandatory helmet laws for motorists is based on the facts that motoring is the number one cause of traumatic brain injuries and deaths, being in a motor vehicle presents a 12% higher risk of traumatic brain injury than being on a bike, per hour of use, and that motoring helmets actually work in crashes involving motor vehicles, unlike bicycling helmets.

              Based on that, it’s clear that cyclists holding out for “you first” with respect to mandatory helmet laws is quite reasonable. Motorists who push for mandatory helmet laws for cyclists but refuse to accept the same for themselves are obviously either ignorant or are pushing to reduce the number of people on bikes from its already pitifully law level.

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              • John Lascurettes November 2, 2017 at 6:48 pm

                Exactly this.

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              • wsbob November 3, 2017 at 1:07 am

                “…Motorists who push for mandatory helmet laws for cyclists but refuse to accept the same for themselves are obviously either ignorant or are pushing to reduce the number of people on bikes from its already pitifully law level.” b carfree

                Besides about the death of the guy, I am saddened to see this story about his very unfortunate and tragic fall from his bike, allowed to descend into a pathetic rehash of tired rhetoric attacking the use of basic protection from impact to people’s heads that use of a bike helmet can offer people riding bikes.

                Analogies of motor vehicle use to riding a bike and the safety measures needed for each are so dissimilar, they shouldn’t be forced into comparison as a tactic to repel laws mandating helmet use.

                Boyd Littell looks to have been way beyond 16 years of age, so the law didn’t require he wear a bike helmet. I have no idea whether at the time of the collision, he wasn’t wearing one because that was his choice, or he just forgot, or whatever. The simple fact is he fell, he banged his head bad, and he’s gone as a result. Have a little respect will you? For the people that are left, missing him, if not for Littell himself.

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              • Kyle Banerjee November 3, 2017 at 10:34 am

                Making cooperation with an idea that’s good on it’s own contingent on anything else is goofy. If it’s a good idea, support it. If not, don’t.

                The reality is that you can’t protect people from themselves, and the only real way to make things safer is to change the consciousness. Laws can help with that, but requiring things can backfire.

                If people are worried about the idea that advocating helmet use discourages cycling because it gives the impression it’s dangerous, they might want to consider the constant insistence in separated infrastructure which is premised on the car-centric logic that bicycles do not belong on roads and will only represent a minuscule percentage of paths suitable for riding for the foreseeable future.

                In the bad old days, cycling on the roads was just “cycling.” It still is that way in most areas of the country.

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              • Dan A November 3, 2017 at 11:06 am

                Mandatory helmet laws have been proven to depress cycling numbers of all age groups, in multiple locations. Has anyone shown that separated infrastructure does that? I’m currently undecided on separated infrastructure, so go ahead and convince me that places that have added separated infrastructure have depressed the number of cyclists as a direct result.

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              • wsbob November 5, 2017 at 11:07 am

                Re-reading my comment here today:

                https://bikeportland.org/2017/11/01/police-say-portlander-boyd-littell-fell-from-his-bike-then-died-in-colonel-summers-park-250863#comment-6838909

                …I think I should clarify that I have no idea whether or not Boyd Littell was or wasn’t wearing a bike helmet at the time he crashed. Whether or not he was wearing one, was not reported in these bikeportland stories about his crash, and his passing.

                I would hope that from sharing thoughts about the potential for head and brain injury that can result from falling from a bike, people would focus on the full range of things they might personally do to limit their own potential for falls while riding.

                …safe riding procedures in general…such as effective signaling for turns, lane changes, watching particularly closely when approaching and passing through intersections, and many more, that involves patient, gradually acquired experience.

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          • chris November 2, 2017 at 5:34 pm

            They are required in Oregon for any motorcycle, scooter, or moped, even the slow old ones that get passed by people on e-cargo bikes.

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      • John Liu
        John Liu November 2, 2017 at 10:08 pm

        I wear a helmet almost all the time, and recommend it to my friends, but I do not support mandatory helmet laws for adults. It should be a choice we get to make.

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  • Charles Ross November 2, 2017 at 11:35 am

    I’ve gone over on my bike a couple of times. The last time was when an item of clothing got caught between my front rack and the wheel. It was, by all accounts, a graceful ride over the front handlebars. One witness said he didn’t know whether to applaud or call 911.
    My shoulder hit the ground hard and my head did a hard snap against the pavement.
    The total loss was a sore shoulder, bloody clothing and a crushed front wheel.
    My helmet saved me from a real problem and I don’t ride without wearing one.

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  • anna November 2, 2017 at 12:34 pm

    boyd and i rode bikes and adventured around norman, OK, then portland, for about a year together, give or take ADDverse effects’ whirlwind move/tour from Norman to PDX. we biked to forest park, refueled with donuts and accidentally rode through oaks bottom on our super skinny-tired road bikes. i remember trying to pack his lunches so they had enough calories to fuel his crazy mileage. one night after a show, we stopped at clinton park and laid down our bikes, napped and stargazed for an hour, then finished the ride home. love to everyone who was lucky enough to know him. i wish so much that his ride hadn’t ended. rest in peace.

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    • Kate November 2, 2017 at 2:52 pm

      That’s a beautiful memory, thanks for sharing Anna.

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  • John Liu
    John Liu November 2, 2017 at 6:08 pm

    The photo of him shows so much life and goodwill in his eyes.

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  • JB November 2, 2017 at 9:33 pm

    m
    No. But they are required to wear helmets!
    Nice try.
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    This isn’t always the case. In Oklahoma there are no mandatory helmet laws for motorcyclists. They simply require that eye protection be worn.

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