Farmington Hills attorney still in pain from New York cyclist accident

Richard Bernstein fights to change Central Park after he was hit by cyclist in August

Published On: Jan 30 2013 04:36:41 PM EST   Updated On: Jan 23 2013 07:44:11 AM EST
DETROIT -

Richard Bernstein has spent his career championing the causes of the disabled, and he is not letting severe injuries from an accident involving a cyclist stop him from continuing his work.
Bernstein was in New York in August training for his 18th marathon.

He had decided to take one last stroll through New York's Central Park before flying home.

"I was at the bottom of a very steep hill, very steep, so that's why the police estimated that the cyclist was going at a speed of 35 miles an hour, because he was going at full speed on a very steep decline and what unfortunately happened was he veered into the pedestrian lane of the park," said Bernstein.

The cyclist hit Bernstein from behind. Bernstein shattered his hip, his pelvis and part of his femur.

He also suffered damage to his teeth and cuts to his face that required plastic surgery.
Bernstein spent 10 weeks at Mount Sinai hospital in New York city then continued rehabilitation and therapy. He spent much of his recovering without the use of pain medication. Bernstein said being blind made treating him for his injuries a little more complicated.

"You have to be lucid when you're blind," said Bernstein. Unlike a sighted person who can see where they are going, Bernstein needs to rely on his other senses to get around. So to remain lucid he had to find ways other than medication to cope with the pain. "Lucidity was absolutely paramount for safety purposes because if you take one fall or if something happens, even if they're carrying you, you know, you're done," he said.

Despite the long recovery and a future of chronic pain, Bernstein feels strongly he was destined to have this accident. "The reason I believe that this is so important, why this happened to me, is that God gave me the ability to do something about it. And that's why I am not going to just accept this as a tragedy," said Bernstein.

Bernstein filed a federal lawsuit against the city of New York claiming the city is in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act. The lawsuit claims Central Park is inaccessible to the blind and others who are handicapped because the city doesn't enforce rules for bicyclists and doesn't have adequate pedestrian signals. Bernstein is not asking for money, but changes to make the park safer.  He hopes this lawsuit will lead to changes and improvements at parks across the country.

Local 4 asked the city of New York about the lawsuit and received the following statement from the NYC Law Department: "We believe that the lawsuit is defective in several respects. First and most important is the fact that the complaint is wrong in stating that the City is violating the ADA. However, before that question can be reached, the case must be presented to the proper court. Because that court is in New York and not in Michigan we have moved to have the case dismissed. We requested that Mr. Bernstein voluntarily transfer the case to the proper court, but he refused." While Bernstein is upset with the city, he does not hold any ill will against the cyclist who hit him.

"It was just an accident and he was genuinely a nice person, who was, you know, incredibly remorseful about the situation," said Bernstein. "I told him, 'You totally have my forgiveness on this,' and  I told him, I said, 'I don't want you to worry about it, I don't want you to think about it, and I don't want this to be the kind of thing that encumbers your life and that bothers you as you move through your day,'" he said. Bernstein remains positive and admits that it's not always an easy task.
"I grieve for my old self. I grieve for the fact that, you know, I loved running 13 miles a day and that was the thing that kind of gave me m greatest joy and the greatness happiness," said Bernstein.

Bernstein decided against having several surgeries that would have put screws and other hardware in his body because it could have kept him from running again.
"You wouldn't be able to do athletic competition the way I love doing it.

So what they said was, this was going to be a very painful process that you're going to go through and it's going to take a long time, but we're going to do certain things to help your body heal.," said Bernstein.

He has run 17 marathons and one Ironman competition. He said the training for those races is helping him heal from these injuries.

"Your body is accustomed to going through kind of getting broken down. The muscles are used to getting broken down, the ligaments, the tendons, the bones are used to it. So the body over that period has actually kind of retained the memory and has actually learned how to heal,' said Bernstein. The attorney has set quite a goal for his recovery.

"I will be doing the Free Press half marathon in October and I will be doing the full ING New York city marathon in November," said Bernstein. "That will happen. I will make this happen."