Bad driving is an act of blind faith

All bad cab drivers, anywhere in the world, drive with their own particular style that makes them awful.

The Yellow Cab drivers of New York City, for example, and the taximen of inner city Dublin, will each have their own insane dodges that hold them dangerously close to danger and yet spare them from the awful collision.

(The worst cab ride I ever had in my life was with Ralph McLean and Bap Kennedy, on the way in from the airport at Austin, Texas. It was the maddest time of the year to visit the beautiful city of Austin - the week of the South By South West Festival, and we reckoned afterwards that the city fathers must have set dangerously insane prisoners free for that week and given them taxi drivers' licenses, just to make up the numbers and deal with the demand. Our driver appeared to be West African - he didn't seem to be able to speak a word of English, but he nodded frantically when we told him our destination, so we loaded our luggage and climbed in. Driving at terrifying speed, he would make heart-stopping three-lane changes without warning. Behind us the trucks and vans would blare off like the opening chords of Mozart's Trumpet Concerto, and he would turn his head BACK aover his shoulder and release an ear-splitting high-speed string of West African curses over our cowering heads at cars BEHIND him, while hurtling FORWARD towards the interchanges at 80 miles an hour. We clung to the bars and dug our heels into the footwells. He delivered us, sweating and shaken, and drove off in a roar. We went inside and found out it was the wrong hotel. 'It's all right,' said Bap. 'I'm just glad to be alive.')

I once compared the cab drivers of New York to bullfighters – they perform the same milimetre-perfect manouevres in tight spaces, with so much at stake. The cabbies of Dublin are more like wired suicide jockeys on last-chance racehorses. They’re sprinting towards the gap in a blinkered machine, trying to beat the lights.

The tuk tuk drivers of Chiang Mai are more like mosquitoes – they appear out of nowhere and seem to find a space or a way through all defences. The tuk tuk is little more than a souped-up golf cart, or a large pram with an engine. It's actually built on a motorcycle frame - the driver steers with handlebars - with a double axle, supporting a bench seat for two. They're adorned with all kinds of badges and lights and stainless steel railings and frames. You bargain a price with the driver for your destination, climb in the back and off he goes, with the kind of fimsy, jittery roar you’d expect from a large lawnmower. The secret is in the small size of the vehicle – he can nip down narrow alleyways, find a way past parked delivery trucks and find a space at the next stop - often all at the same time.

Between starting off and reaching your destination, you come unbelievably close to other road users. Chiang Mai is a city of a million scooters, and they spread through the traffic like a virus, filling in the spaces between all of the other vehicles. At the lights, you can actually smell the after shave worn by the scooter drivers as they pull up alongside. Everyone here drives perilously close to everyone else. And so, like all bad drivers everywhere in the world, the act of driving becomes an exercise in enormous blind faith – in this city, it’s an unshakeable belief that not one single vehicle, from this spot all the long way to the other side of the city, will brake suddenly in the next fifteen minutes.

When the lights turn green and you hear the engines start to roar, you realise that without anyone having ever discussed it, this blind faith is contagious - and the whole city is in on it.