When a bond breaks
Norbert Simons first met Clevonte Lodge-Bean when he was a student at Whitney Institute Middle School.
Mr Simons, a teacher and athletics coach, recognised immediately that the young man, not yet in his teens, had a rare talent for sprinting — still the jewel in the crown of track and field.
But he also saw something more in him; that he was a truly special young person, who might have that elusive combination of talent, desire and athletic intelligence to take him to the highest level.
Over time, as Clevonte left middle school and continued to develop as a young track star for Bermuda Pacers and Bermuda’s national athletics team, he and Mr Simons developed a father-son relationship. The coach felt he and Clevonte had an “unbreakable bond”.
That bond broke at 9.30am on Sunday, November 9.
Clevonte was riding his motorcycle to work in Dockyard when he was in collision with a car near Morgan Hill on Somerset Road. This is an area where drivers come off a long hill and then bear left as the hill flattens. Drivers coming in the opposite direction come off a long, straight piece of road before bearing to the right as they begin to ascend the hill to Fort Scaur.
Just how the collision occurred and who was responsible has not been made public. What is a fact is that a promising young man headed for college armed with the dream of representing Bermuda at the Olympic Games has been lost to his family, friends and the broader community.
Clevonte, whose funeral takes place today, was the sixth person to die on Bermuda’s roads this year. There is no certainty that he will be the last.
Each of those lives has value, but the loss of a teenager just starting out on a life full of promise is especially painful. And it adds to the frustration that for all of the public-service campaigns, appeals, traffic crackdowns and other road-safety efforts, Bermuda cannot end the annual loss of lives on the roads.
To be sure, there have been successful measures in the past. The mandatory use of crash helmets in the 1970s has probably saved hundreds of lives. The compulsory wearing of seatbelts has made deaths by people in cars a rarity, although drivers and passengers may still suffer severe, life-changing injuries.
Last week, there was an announcement in the Official Gazette that there will be roadside breath-test checkpoints next weekend. These checkpoints have made a significant difference, and should be continued and increased. Also welcome is the move by the Bermuda Road Safety Council to encourage people to sign up as designated drivers over the holidays.
Other proposals — many pushed by road-safety advocate Joseph Froncioni — have merit and should be introduced as a matter of urgency. Speed cameras, which have been debated for more than 25 years, are long overdue. The failure of successive governments and police commissioners to introduce them is a national disgrace.
All the same, it is a truism that road deaths, and the more common and often life-changing injuries that occur with much less notice, will stop only when every single driver and rider starts to take some responsibility and slows down.
How many times has a bike rider flown past some cars and disappeared into the distance, only to be found waiting for traffic to open up at the next junction? Speeding in a place as small as Bermuda saves almost no time at all. It may be a thrill or just a pleasant experience to feel the wind blow by you as you speed down a road on a bike or in a car. But with Bermuda’s narrow roads and hidden driveways, death literally lies round the next corner.
Bermuda residents, unlike people in many other countries, have worn masks during the Covid-19 crisis because they understood they were not just doing it for their own protection, but for the protection of others.
Bermuda residents need to recognise that the same applies when they drive. Speeding or driving carelessly may or may not cost you your life. But you may be responsible for the death of the driver coming in the opposite direction. No one should have that on their conscience.
And Bermuda should not have to bury any more promising young men such as Clevonte Lodge-Bean.