On road rage, grace and being nice 

One of the few things I remember, without consulting my notes, about the mandatory Disability Awareness Training for taxi drivers licensed by Vale of White Horse District Council is that people will treat you the way that you treat them.  That is, if you shout at them, they will shout back at you and if you are nice to them, they will be nice back – on the whole.   

Unlike some other people licensed as taxi drivers, I've never been an advocate of the more aggressive style of taxi driving, especially on an all night shift, when the opportunity for things to go wrong is much greater. And particularly between 0100 – after which all the sensible people have stopped drinking and are on their way home - and 0600, what I call the danger hours. As much as for any altruistic reasons, being nice to people is for my own self protection. 

Following a recent Wednesday night shift, I had finished work at 2100 and had adjourned to a kebab van outside a college on the High Street in Oxford, on the way home. I’ve known the owner for 27 years, he now works there with his son and they are amongst the kindest people ever to be found conducting business on the streets of the city. 

As I parked up and got out of my taxi, having looked in the rear view mirror, a cyclist with no front light and only a flashing light on the rear - carrying a huge black box strapped to his back, working for a start up internet delivery company - already in the carriageway going around the taxi, shouted out and swore at me. 

There's nothing unusual about a cyclist riding with an illegal lighting set up on the streets of Oxford at night, or with no lights at all.  It would not be unreasonable to say that this is commonplace. Nor is it even unusual for a male cyclist to shout out on the road, when they think that they have had something wrong done to them.  

It is true that I should have looked in my offside wing mirror before opening the door, something which I routinely do, but had not on this occasion.  What surprised me about this encounter though, was my instinctive reaction once he had shouted at me was to react in kind, by shouting back at him. 

Anyone who is driving professionally on the roads of the Kingdom - especially a taxi driver, who is regularly carrying actual human beings during the course of their work - obviously should be making more of a consistent effort over a longer period of time to get things right on the road, than perhaps a private motorist, doing the work commute does.  That night, I drove home down the High Street, praying for the grace to be what I can be and to treat other road users with respect, even when they do not deserve it. 

As published in the Herald Series on Wednesday 08 June 2016

  1. Rule 60 Highway Code