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Blind Lawyer Hit by Cyclist in Central Park

By Amy Zimmer | August 16, 2012 12:28pm | Updated on August 16, 2012 12:40pm
Marathon runner and lawyer, Richard Bernstein, who is blind, broke his hip when struck by a cyclist in Central Park on Aug. 13, 2012.
Marathon runner and lawyer, Richard Bernstein, who is blind, broke his hip when struck by a cyclist in Central Park on Aug. 13, 2012.
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Facebeook/Richard Bernstein

MANHATTAN — A prominent disabled rights lawyer from Detroit, blind since birth, was hit by a cyclist in Central Park this week while he was in town training for his eighth New York City marathon, according to reports.

Richard Bernstein wound up in Mount Sinai Hospital with a “fractured pelvis, hip, and the additional injuries sustained to my face and body,” he posted on Facebook, where he has received an outpouring of support, the morning after the harrowing incident.

Bernstein said that he was walking on a pedestrian pathway near East 90th Street around 10 a.m. Monday when the cyclist plowed into him, according to the Daily News.

“According to police, the bicyclist was traveling at approximately 35mph and even though I was walking in the pedestrian pathway and wearing bright colors I was still injured,” Bernstein wrote on Facebook.

Bernstein, who earned a spot in the Athletes with Disabilities Hall of Fame in 2006, was also using a reflective white cane that many blind people use, the News said. 

“I got destroyed,” he told the paper from his hospital bed. “It was a direct hit. I was just walking. And then I was on the ground, my face in the asphalt.”

He added: “I should have said to the guy, ‘Are you blind?’”

The cyclist, a 30-year-old video editor commuting to work, told the News that he accidentally hit Bernstein after his bike’s gear “caught.”

“I didn’t see him until the last minute,” he said, adding that he didn’t know how police got the 35 mph figure.

It was not clear if he was summonsed.

Though Bernstein, 38, said he was concerned about his own health — doctors told him Wednesday that his broken hip was his biggest injury — he wrote that he was “even more concerned about the future of pedestrian safety.

“It is apparent that the fight is not over and continual attention needs to be directed toward this issue,” he said.

Bernstein won a landmark settlement representing Detroit-area residents who sued Northwest Airlines and the Wayne County Airport Authority due to the airline and airport’s failure to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

He filed a lawsuit recently on behalf of a legally blind athlete in Michigan forced to wear blackout glasses — making him temporarily sightless — during a triathlon, which he believes violates ADA rules.

Bernstein has also represented disabled residents who sued after traffic circles were constructed without access for the disabled, according to news stories posted on his family firm’s website.

"We all know we should obey the rules, and we all know there are consequences, sometimes tragic, when we do not,"  Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe said in a statement on Thursday. "Cyclists have clearly marked paths and clearly marked rules to follow, and common sense is always appropriate."

Benepe urged cyclists to share the park, which see 40 million visitors annually, "thoughtfully, and said, "For those who ignore these requirements for sharing the park, both NYPD and Parks Enforcement Officers remind and summons on a regular basis."
Police did not immediately respond for comment.

“On Monday, I was an Ironman,” Bernstein told the News. “Now I’m totally immobile.”