A blind man who was seriously injured by a cyclist in Central Park has filed a federal lawsuit in Michigan (his home state) accusing the city of violating the Americans with Disabilities Act. It's been exactly one month since Richard Bernstein was hit by the cyclist while jogging in the park, and he's still at Mt. Sinai Hospital—he filed the lawsuit from his hospital bed, where he's recovering from a broken hip and pelvis injury.
Bernstein, an attorney and disabled rights activist, was wearing a fluorescent yellow shirt and bright blue sneakers, and carrying a reflective white cane, when he was struck by cyclist Omar Shakir, who says his gears jammed, causing him to lose control of his bike. (“I was coming around a hairpin turn, my gear caught and I accidently hit a walker,” Shakir recalled after the accident. “I didn’t see him until the last minute.”) The collision messed Bernstein up good. “I got destroyed,” he told the News from the hospital.
The lawsuit accuses the city and the DOT of discriminating against the disabled by failing to enforce rules requiring bicyclists stop at red lights, stop signs and crosswalks at Central Park. Bernstein also thinks the cyclist was speeding, something that the NYPD has also tried to control in the park, with mixed results. When told that police have been handing educational leaflets to pedestrians in the wake of his accident, Bernstein scoffed.
“If you know that people are not adhering to the rules and you don’t do anything about it, the park is not accessible,” Bernstein told the Daily News. "I want them to present an action plan on how they are going to make the park safer, with a timeline."
The NYPD has been cracking down on cyclists in Central Park, but officially the department says there has been no enhanced enforcement of traffic laws, just the usual level of enforcement. Cyclists aren't happy about it, and some say cops are abandoning common sense and issuing costly tickets in pedaling through empty intersections. Meanwhile, the Central Park Conservancy is considering turning over another lane of car traffic to bicycles, similar to Prospect Park. It's worth noting that during Prospect Park's car-free hours, the lights are all green until a pedestrian pushes a button to cross the road, but the lights in Central Park are too antiquated for that to happen.