Policy ideas for brave public servants.
Any widespread integration of hitchhiking or casual carpooling systems into the transport mix requires a change of public consciousness as much as it does the practical necessities which are easy (as thirty years of Oakland and Bay Area 'hitchhiking' has shown). This may require:
1. An educational campaign to emphasize the collective physical and mental health benefits of travel as a form of community, set against the ethical issues of knowingly contributing to pollution, early deaths and global heating by pursuing one-person per vehicle motor industry consumer propaganda ideals. ("Wouldn't your journey be more fun if you shared it - and better for everyone else?")
2. Good information about how to re-think work, shopping and leisure needs according to a more sharing transport system, especially in places where geography or existing infrastructure is already advantageous (eg. an arterial road linking a series of towns in a down a narrow valley or on a peninsula).
3. Emphasis that these are steps to reduce demand and put significant pressure on the oil industry, as well as encouraging a parallel shift in the automobile industry so that it reorganises around repairing existing models, not designing new ones. Some adaptations to existing models could include the introduction of screens (with intercom systems) such as those used in some taxi fleets, thereby minimising virus transmissions which sharing the road.
4. Storytelling helps! Transport mutual aid is more effective when there is cultural knowledge (or capacity) to ensure its continuation through the generations. Sharing examples of when hitchhiking works is part of this process.
One of many mitfahrbank springing up in Germany (sometimes destination signs are provided)
A few noteworthy examples of hitchhiking and casual carpooling systems
The Canadian Gulf Islands. There are hitchhiking points and different forms of organised lift giving on Salt Spring, Bowen, Pender and Galiano Islands, with high levels of public support. There have even been 'save our hitchhiking point' protests when the Provincial government have tried to discourage it.
The Netherlands has a number of liftshalte (in Amsterdam, Zoetemeer, Gronigon and Utrecht) as well as some where the signage has been withdrawn but the points are still used. See https://hitchwiki.org/en/Liftershalte (accessed 11 March 2020).
Germany and Austria - There has been an increase of mitfahrbanke 'hitching points' in a number of rural locations, to help alleviate transport poverty and social isolation. Usually a bench or shelter and adjacent to a bus stop to make use of existing pull in spots.
CarmaHop - Kansas. An innovative short lived pilot project using an app to facilitate flexible hitchhiking and carpooling options, booked or spontaneous. Included a corporate hitchhiking sign to demonstrate membership in urban contexts.
Eastern Cape, RSA. Hitchhiking is practiced by many including into big cities such as Port Elizabeth and Durban, yet sometimes comes into conflict with taxi companies who feel their business is being stolen, thus leading to forms of intervention and monitoring by the police and transport authorities. Durban has a hitchhiker shelter/art installation at Cato Manor where many hundreds of people thumb every day.
Usual FAQ about safety, useful polling data and hitchhiking tips from the experienced
Comprehensive resources and info at: https://hitchwiki.org/en/Hitchhiker%27s_safety
Excellent female perspective: ‘40 tips: what does it take to be a single woman hitchhiker?’ www. anabakran.com/traveling/lady-hitchhiker.
Research on accidents and dangers related to hitchhiking
Very little, so most proclamations about dangers are rhetorical and statistically unfounded (which is not to minimise the seriousness of the occasional incident). The two main studies are highly favourable in terms of relationship between numbers of hitchhiking journeys and serious incidents. They are, however, rather old and represent a time when far more people were on the road and there was greater knowledge and awareness of hitchhiking in Western societies in particular.
1. Fiedler, Joachim, Rolf Hoppe and Peter Berninghaus. Anhalterwesen und Anhaltergefahren: unter besonderer Berücksichtigung des ‘Kurztrampens’ [Hitchhikers and hitchhiking from the specific perspective of shorter journeys]. Wiesbaden: BKA Bundeskriminalamt, 1988. See discussion of this document in zeitonline 6 July1990
2. Pudinski, W., 1974; California Crimes and Accidents Associated with Hitch-hiking, California Highway Patrol, Operational Analysis Section (archived by Bernd Wechner)
COVID-19 and hitchhiking It is very early days to know how this has affected hitchhiking, particularly in poorer countries where access to medical care is limited and/or where working from home has not been an option. In Europe and in Russia hitchhiking seems to have continued after the summer of 2020 with members of the European Hitchhiker Gathering and yahoo.co.uk hitchhiking groups reporting largely positive or non-problematic encounters. Most have carried masks it seems. Crossing borders has been more difficult.
Driver willingness to pick up hitchhikers surveys
2014 Survey of 791 members of Royal Dutch Touring Club (ANDB)
67% give or would like to give lifts
2009 UK Automobile Association/Poplus survey asked 15,000 members about picking up hitchhikers. The percentage who said they would was 9% down from 11% two years before, however certain rural and provincial parts of the UK were more favourable in attitude - such as Cornwall, Devon, Wales and Highland Scotland. Anecdotally I always felt that 1 in 20 vehicles would be prepared to stop in the 1980s and 1990s which is obviously a lower percentage than suggested here!