BOULDER, Colo. (KDVR) — At the age of 34, Andrew Bernstein was at the top of his game: racing in Olympic qualifying events across the country.
He was a frequent visitor at the Boulder County Velodrome, where steep, banking curves allow cyclists to top 60 mph.
But on July 20 of last year, Bernstein was biking home from the velodrome, heading west on Arapahoe Road, when his life changed forever.
“I went under a railroad track, and I remember thinking, ‘I’ll be home soon,'” he says. “And that’s my last memory, before the van hit me.”
Colorado State Patrol says Bernstein was hit from behind by a white, 2001 Dodge Van. He was thrown into a ditch off the side of the road, hidden to drivers passing by.
“I don’t remember being in pain, but I knew how badly hurt I was,” says Bernstein.
He would later learn he was in the ditch for about 30 minutes before Tim Gillach spotted him.
“I came over the bluff coming down the hill,” says Gillach. “And a couple hundred yards later I pulled over to the side of the road, and looked at my father and said, ‘Hey, did you see that?'”
Gillach turned around and drove back, finding Bernstein’s crumpled red bike on the side of the road.
“There he was, struggling for every breath. He was fighting hard,” says Gillach. “All I could think to myself looking at him was, ‘This man really, really loves life, and this man really, really wants to live.'”
Bernstein, known by most as Bernie, was taken to Boulder Community Hospital, and then to Denver Health Medical Center.
His injuries were extensive, with doctors giving him a coin-flip of a chance for survival.
Ten months later, Bernie is back on his feet, walking with the use of crutches.
“This person gave me a permanent disability. And they should hear that,” Bernstein said of the driver who hit him. “I wake up every morning in pain because my body has this imbalance that I’ll have forever. I’ll never escape this.”
Bernstein recently published his experience in an article in Outside Magazine, hoping his story can remind drivers to share the road.
Gillach was also hit by a driver while biking about two months before Bernstein was, breaking his pelvis and four ribs.
“Life happens, and the coincidence of the two of us running into each other in life, is just unbelievable,” he says.
It remains unclear why CSP hasn’t been able to identify who was driving the van at the time of the crash.
“I feel very fortunate to be here talking to you. Many people don’t make it. I almost didn’t make it,” says Bernstein. “I think it should be all of our goals to look out for each other, be compassionate to each other, and remember that compassion includes safely operating our cars and trucks and vans.”