Cyclists beware: If you get hit by a cab, pray it has insurance

Katie G. Nelson & Kristoffer Tigue
City Pages

Darin Wiesner lay crumpled on the side of a south Minneapolis street. He screamed in pain, the two largest bones in his left leg shattered, a mangled bicycle beside him.
Wiesner only caught a brief glimpse of the Blue & White Taxi as it took a sharp left into oncoming traffic, heading directly toward him.

"I figured he would take the corner and go around me," Wiesner recalls. "But then I saw he was looking into the back seat, talking to the passenger."

The taxi slammed into Wiesner, throwing him onto the warm September asphalt, breaking his leg in two places.

Wiesner looked up to see the cabbie, Hassan Halane, talking loudly on his cellphone a few feet away. They made eye contact but said nothing.

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Just as the ambulance pulled around the corner, Halane, still on his cellphone, looked over and asked Wiesner a question: "Why didn't you stop at the stop sign?"

Before Wiesner could explain that he was, in fact, foot-down and waiting at the stop sign on East 28th Street and Fifth Avenue South, Halane "just walked away."

A year later and a mile and a half away, Alex Oenes is on the street bleeding. There's a hole in his knee and his bicycle is snapped in half — thrown over the top of a Lincoln Town Car.

The clear-eyed male driver rolls down his window and pauses as Oenes pleads for help. The car begins to inch forward. Within seconds, it's gone.

Today, Wiesner still walks with a noticeable limp; Oenes is unable to lift heavy objects due to a strained rotator cuff that never fully healed. Neither received anything from the drivers responsible for their accidents.

Thanks to legal loopholes and gaps in insurance coverage, cyclists and pedestrians hit by Minnesota's taxis each year find themselves toiling futilely to find redress.

For Wiesner, the accident meant a $90,000 medical bill, a destroyed bike, and putting his work, education, and personal life on hold for six months while he recovered. It also meant two tiresome years pitted against Minnesota's largest cab company, which is protected by a convoluted and outdated legal system.

Oenes' injuries were more modest, leaving him with a $2,000 trip to the emergency room. But his fight would quickly become personal, leading him on a vigilante's quest for justice.

Read more of our investigation into taxi insurance coverage at City Pages.