Hitchhiking (also known as thumbing or hitching) is a means of transportation that is gained by asking people, usually strangers, for a ride in their automobile or other road vehicle. The latter may require many rides from different people. A ride is usually, but not always, free. If the hitchhiker wishes to indicate that they need a ride, they may simply make a physical gesture or display a written sign. In North America and the United Kingdom, the gesture involves extending the hitchhiker's arm toward the road and sticking the thumb of their outstretched hand upward with the hand closed. In other parts of the world, it is more common to use a gesture where the index finger is pointed at the road.
The hitchhikers' methods of signaling to drivers differ around the world. Many hitchhikers use various hand signals. For examples, in the U.S. and UK, they point their thumb up. In some African countries, the hand is held still with the palm facing upwards. In Israel, the hitchhiking signal is to hold the fist out with the index finger pointing towards the road. A hitchhiker may also hold a sign displaying their destination. A more recent method of hitching a ride is to go to bulletin boards or websites and arrange lifts beforehand, without soliciting directly from the road.
Another method of attracting a driver's attention was illustrated in the 1934 film It Happened One Night, where Claudette Colbert hiked up her skirt and put out her stockinged leg to get a driver to stop.
Hitchhiking is a historically common (self-policed) practice worldwide and hence there are very few places in the world where laws exist to restrict it. However, a minority of countries have laws that restrict hitchhiking at certain locations. In the United States, for example, some local governments have laws outlawing hitchhiking, on the basis of drivers' and hitchhikers' safety. In 1946, New Jersey arrested and imprisoned a hitchhiker, leading to intervention by the American Civil Liberties Union. In Canada, several highways have restrictions on hitchhiking, particularly in British Columbia and is illegal on all highways in Ontario. In all countries in Europe it is legal to hitchhike, and in some places even encouraged. However, worldwide, even where hitchhiking is permitted, laws forbid hitchhiking where pedestrians are banned, such as the Autobahn (Germany), motorways (United Kingdom), or interstate highways (United States), although hitchhikers often obtain rides at entrances and truck stops.
The decline of hitchhiking
Graeme Chesters and David Smith discuss reasons for hitchhiking's decline in Britain, and possible means of reviving it in safer and more organised forms, in one of the few academic discussions of hitchhiking, "The Neglected Art of Hitch-hiking: Risk, Trust and Sustainability".
In the recent years, hitchhikers themselves have started seeing effort to strengthen the hitchhiking community. One example is the annual Hitchgathering - an event organized by the hitchhikers, for the hitchhikers.
Two studies on the topic include a 1974 California Highway Patrol study and a 1985 German federal police study. The California study found that hitchhikers were not disproportionately likely to be victims of crime. The German study has not been translated into English. A more recent article in English discusses a few of its findings, which include that traffic accidents are the leading cause of death among hitchhikers.
Recommended safety practices include:
- Asking for rides at gas stations instead of signaling at the roadside.
- Trusting one's instincts.
- Refusing rides from impaired drivers.
- Hitchhiking during daylight hours.
Around the world
In Cuba, picking up hitchhikers is mandatory by government vehicles, if passenger space is available. Hitchhiking is encouraged, as there are few cars, and designated hitchhiking spots are used. Waiting riders are picked up on a first come first go basis.
In Nepal, hitchhiking is very common in rural areas. Not many people own vehicle, so specially in around villages, hitchhiking is a common practice. People stretches their hand towards road and waves the palm facing it down. Gestures such as, raising hand, pointing thumbs, and sometimes even standing on the road are also common. In hilly region, people take lift while in flat road, but as the road gets curvy (in hills), they prefer to walk because they can reach destination faster than in vehicle (distance vs displacement thing).
In India, hitchhiking colloquially called as "taking lift" is not common though it is not illegal. The more common trend in India is to take a paid conveyance which is generally shared ranging from a bus to a three wheeler which is run by a union or the government and monitored by the local authorities. This option is more prevalent as it more safe for the person running the vehicle and the one intending to travel.
In Israel, hitchhiking is commonplace at designated locations called trempiyadas (טרמפיאדה in Hebrew, derived from the German trampen). Travelers soliciting rides, called trempists, wait at trempiyadas, typically junctions of highways or main roads outside of a city. At a very large trempiadas, it is not uncommon for people to line up according to their destination of choice.
The typical hand signal in Israel is to point to the ground with the hand far from the body, instead of raising a thumb.
In the Netherlands, hitchhiking is legal and there are official signs where one may wait for a ride. These designated hitchhiking locations are called liftershalte or liftplaats in Dutch, and they are particularly common in university towns.
Hitchhiking was legalised and formalised in Poland in 1957. Hitchhikers could buy booklets including coupons from travel agencies. These coupons were given to drivers who took hitchhikers. By the end of each season drivers who collected the highest number of coupons could exchange them for prizes and others took part in a lottery. This so-called "Akcja Autostop" was popular till the end of the 1970s, but the sale of the booklet was discontinued in 1995.
In the United Kingdom each year, hundreds of students take part in a sponsored hitch to Morocco or Prague in aid of Link Community Development; in 2007, 782 people hitched the 1,600 miles (2,600 km) to Morocco and raised almost £340,000 to improve the quality of education in Africa. Other UK students partake in "Jailbreak", a competition, usually during summer holidays/vacation, to see who can get farthest from their university without spending any money on travel (whether money can be spent on food/shelter is up to the participants to decide). Warwick University currently operates the largest Jailbreak event in the UK, with 336 students in 2010,. In 2010, their winning team travelled to Bangkok in just 36 hours. Cambridge RAG Jailbreaks have also produced many notable winners; in 2010, a pair got to Washington, D.C. in under 39 hours by playing magic tricks and solving any given Rubik's Cube in under 40 seconds. As of 2011, the furthest any pair has reached is Buenos Aires. Cambridge students, however are allowed to spend money donated during the trip, whereas other universities' "Jailbreakers" donate the money raised directly to their charity of choice.
Spin-offs from the Jailbreak theme have included an event wherein teams were dropped off at a random location (usually a village) and had to return to campus without spending money on transport; and the newest event, "Escaped", wherein teams had to travel to 5 cities (revealed the day before as Leeds, Birmingham, Brighton, Cardiff and London) and capture escaped "convicts" within 24 hours. The winners, "Bitchola and Georgyna", reached the fifth city and convict with only 50 minutes to spare and were only one of two teams to do so.
Hitchhiking became a common method of traveling during the Great Depression, when many people sought work and had little money, much less their own automobile. Hitchhiking was given tacit acceptance by the Federal government during those years. Transients were promised a room and a hot meal at camps set up by the bureau around the country as long as they could get to them. The bureau operated such camps until it closed its doors in 1936. During those years, thumbing rides around the country was an accepted fact of life.
Problems arose as a result of random hitchhikers obtaining rides from random drivers. Warnings of the potential dangers of picking up hitchhikers were publicized to drivers, who were advised that some hitchhikers would rob the driver who picked them up, and in some cases murder them. Other warnings were publicized to the hitchhikers themselves, alerting them to the same types of crimes being carried out by drivers. By 1937, fourteen states had passed laws restricting or forbidding hitchhiking, and more than half the states had done so by 1950. Nonetheless, hitchhiking was part of the American psyche and many people continued to stick out their thumbs, even in states where the practice had been outlawed.
In popular culture
Many authors have written about hitchhiking. For example:
- 1939 - The Grapes of Wrath, by John Steinbeck, opens with a hitched ride.
- 1957 - Jack Kerouac immortalized hitchhiking in his book, On the Road.
- 1971 - Ken Welsh's "how to" book on hitchhiking around Europe, titled Hitch-hiker's Guide to Europe, is rumored to have inspired the title of Douglas Adams' 1978 classic book.
- 1973 - Kurt Vonnegut's perpetual protagonist, Kilgore Trout, hitchhikes halfway across the country in Breakfast of Champions (also known as Goodbye Blue Monday).
- 1976 - Sissy Hankshaw, the protagonist of Even Cowgirls Get the Blues by Tom Robbins, becomes legendary as a hitchhiker in part because of her unusually large thumbs.
- 1977 - In the short story, "The Hitch-Hiker", Roald Dahl illustrates the idea that fascinating stories can be heard when giving people a lift, as a means of introducing one of his trademark eccentric characters.
- 1978 - In his cult classic The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (first broadcast on radio in 1978), Douglas Adams postulated on interstellar hitchhiking.
- 1984 - Science fiction author Robert A. Heinlein described interdimensional hitchhiking in his book Job: A Comedy of Justice.
- 1996 - Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer
- 2001 - Round Ireland with a Fridge by British comedian Tony Hawks: hitchhiking around Ireland with a refrigerator, as a result of a drunken bet.
- 2002 - Lifetime hitchhiker by Irv Thomas, incorporates hitchhiking into his writing perspective and lifestyle in Innocence Abroad: Adventuring Through Europe at 64 on $100 Per Week
- 2003 - Evasion by CrimethInc.
- 2003 - Off The Map by Hibikina Chickena and Kika Kat
- 2004 - Derelict Days...Sixty Years on the Roadside Path to Enlightenment is a memoir in which lifetime hitchhiker, Irv Thomas, recounts his hitchhiking travels.(In June, 2009, Thomas extended that lifetime record to 66 years, with a long-distance road trip at age 82).
- 2005 - Autostop Polski ("Polish Hitchhiking") is an in-depth analysis of the practice of hitchhiking in Poland.
- 2005 - No Such Thing As A Free Ride? is a comprehensive anthology of hitchhiking stories and viewpoints, serialized in The Times and named The Observer's Travel Book of the Week. Edited by Tom Sykes and Simon Sykes, it featured contributions from Mike Leigh, Sir Alan Parker, Sir Max Hastings, Tony Hawks and Eric Burdon, amongst others. In 2008, No Such Thing As A Free Ride? North American Edition was published by Goose Lane of Canada and featured JP Donleavy, Margaret Avison, Doug Stanhope, Jeff Lewis and Will Durst, amongst others.
- 2006 - Riding With Strangers: A Hitchhiker's Journey by Elijah Wald
- 2007 - The Hitcher by Chris Coekin: A photographic book, part fact part fiction based upon Coekin's adventures hitching around the UK with a camera.
- 2008 - High Plains Drifter: A Hitchhiking Journey Across America by Tim Shey
- 2009 - Iranian Rappers & Persian Porn: A Hitchhiker's Adventures in the New Iran details some of British author Jamie Maslin's exploits on the road.
- 2009 - Le Monde en stop by Ludovic Hubler
- 2010 - Hitchhiking With Larry David by Paul Dolman: Hitching on Martha's Vineyard one summer, and running into Larry David.
- 2011 - Lost On The Way: Adventures in 40,000 Miles of Hitchhiking by Ronald Dane: Hitchhiking 40,000 miles through twenty-some countries over a seven-year period in the early 1970s.
- 2011 - Redwood to Deadwood: A 53-year Old Dude Hitchhikes Across America. Again by Colin Flaherty: Taking three months off from a successful business to hitchhike around America.
- 2011 - The Short, Short Hitchhiker by Stanley Gurzce, edited by Richard Menzies
- 2012 - Itching After Rovers by Mick Pickup
- 2012 - Travels With A Road Dog: Hitchhiking Along the Roads of the Americas by R.K: Almost five years of hitchhiking around the United States, Mexico, part of Canada, the Bahamas and Venezuela.
- 2012 - The First Time I Rode a Freight Train & Other Hitchhiking Stories by Tim Shey.
- 2013 - The Last American Hitch-Hiker: Tales of Wander by Mark Dean Kneeskern: A journal, written along the roadside from 2003-2013, explores modern travel culture and the psyche of its participants, while telling the uproarious and sometimes strange stories of this rare Modus Operandi.
- 1960 - "The Hitch-Hiker", an episode of The Twilight Zone
- 1981 - The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (TV Series)
- 1984 - Diff'rent Strokes, a two-part special episode, "The Hitchhikers"
- 1999 - SpongeBob SquarePants - "Pizza Delivery"
- 2000 - "The Hitch-hiker", an episode of the Tales of the Unexpected (TV series)
- 2003 - Cold Case (TV series) episode 1.10, "Hitchhiker", addresses similar murders of hitchikers in Pennsylvania, Delaware, and New Jersey
- 2006 - The Masters of Horror episode, "Pick Me Up"
- 2007 - Peking Express, a Dutch/Flemish reality game show that follows a series of couples as they hitchhike to or from Beijing (in seasons 1-3) and South America (in seasons 4 and 5).
- Joe Bennett, New Zealand newspaper columnist and author, hitchhiked around the world for 10 years.
- André Brugiroux, France. Hitchhiked all around the world for 18 years, 1955 to 1973.
- Alan Carter. Last hitchhiker recorded in the Guinness Book of Records for the Land's End to John O'Groats to Land's End round-trip. (39 hours 28 minutes)
- Martin Clark and Graham Beynon. Last hitchhikers recorded in the Guinness Book of Records for the Land's End to John O'Groats trip. (17 hours 8 minutes)
- David Choe, painter, muralist, graffiti artist and graphic novelist
- Chris Coekin, artist from the UK authored the photobook The Hitcher.
- W. H. Davies, a Welsh poet and tramp, who hitchhiked America during the early 20th century.
- Graham Eccles. British poet, hitcher and balloon sculptor. Hitchhiked from Bude, Cornwall to Edinburgh, Scotland for the Fringe Festival 2011 with his Penny Farthing bicycle in a bid to beat Tony Hawks' Round Ireland with a Fridge legendary hitchhike. Took 8 lifts over 2 days to get to Edinburgh, and 5 lifts in 28 hours hitching to return. The return leg was from Cumbria to Cornwall due to various other escapades during the To the Fringe with a Farthing trip.
- Colin Flaherty, writer and journalist, hitchhiked across the United States and Canada and wrote Redwood to Deadwood: A 53-year Old Dude Hitchhikes Across America. Again.
- Ludovic Hubler, is a French hitchhiker who toured the world entirely by hitchhiking from January 1, 2003 to January 1, 2008. He wrote a book called Le Monde en stop, which was awarded the best travel book of the year 2009 in France.
- Jack Kerouac hitchhiked in America and wrote many books about his experience.
- Suzanne MacNevin (feminist writer) spent several years hitchhiking in Canada and the United States during the late 1990s.
- Chris McCandless, subject of the book, Into the Wild; hitchhiked throughout the western region of North America in the early 1990s.
- Rik Merchie, writer, hitchiked from Ghent to the Mount Everest in 31 days.
- Jim Morrison of The Doors. He is also depicted hitchhiking in his movie HWY: An American Pastoral.
- Robert Prins. Last hitchhiker recorded in the Guinness Book of Records for the 24-hour hitchhiking record. (2,318.4 km)
- Stephan Schlei, from Ratingen in Germany. Hitchhiked more than 621,371 mi (1,000,000 km). The Guinness Book of Records, before all hitchhiking records were removed, used to say that he was the World's No.1 Hitchhiker.
- Tim Shey - Hitchhiked the United States for most of 16 years (1996-2012); he also did some hitchhiking in 1986-1987. Shey wrote two books: High Plains Drifter: A Hitchhiking Journey Across America (2008) and The First Time I Rode a Freight Train & Other Hitchhiking Stories (2012).
- Devon Smith was listed in Guinness Book of World Records for most cumulative miles hitchhiked (1973 to 1985), over 290,988 mi (468,300 km). He also held the record for hitchhiking all 48 contiguous U.S. states in 33 days during 1957.
- Andrzej Stasiuk - writer, journalist and literary critic
- Juan Pablo Villarino, Argentinean hitchhiker who travels the world documenting hospitality. His book Vagabundeando en el eje del Mal (Vagabonding in the Axis of Evil - By thumb in Iraq, Iran and Afghanistan), was published in Spain, Argentina and Ecuador. He is the founder of Autostop Argentina, and regularly writes for National Geographic VIAJES. His Educational Nomadic Project was shortlisted among the 50 most influential educational related travel enterprise by Matador Network.
- Nedd Willard, writer, artist and journalist.
- Kenny Flannery - Hitchhiked hundreds or thousands of miles across the US and other parts of the world from 2007-2013. Has promoted the means of travel through stories and videos on his "Hobo Lifestyle" site and YouTube. 
- Ford Prefect, a space-hitchhiking travel writer in The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy.
- Hitchhiker (character), a hitchhiking lunatic killer played by actor Edwin Neal in the original Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974).
- The Hitcher, a green cockney man who was featured in The Mighty Boosh.
- Flexible carpooling - Hitchhiking formalized via designated meeting points
- Hitchwiki - a wiki about hitchhiking
- Slugging - Hitchhiking motivated by HOV lanes in several urban areas
- Real-time ridesharing - Hitchhiking facilitated by a smartphone application
- Hitch The World | …indefinite vagabond travel
- Velabas - Travel Narrative and Drawings from Hitchhiking Around the World
- Nwanna, p.573
- "So You Won't Talk, Huh?". Time. November 18, 1946. Retrieved 2009-01-27. "In her cell, Susan learned that it also (technically) forbids hitchhiking, and demands (by a law passed in 1799) that strangers be able to give a good account of themselves.... Attorney James A. Major of the American Civil Liberties Union demanded that she be given a new trial."
- Hitchhiking Basics
- Chesters, Graeme & Smith, David (2001). "'The Neglected Art of Hitch-hiking: Risk, Trust and Sustainability". Sociological Research Online 6 (3).
- Wechner, Bernd (1 March 2002). "A dearth of research: Does anyone really know anything about hitch-hiking?". Archived from the original on 3 December 2008. Retrieved 2 June 2013.
- Wechner, Bernd (1 November 1996). "The Pros and Cons of Hitch-Hiking". Retrieved 2 June 2013. "There are no statistics on hitch-hiking, at least none that are meaningful and reliable. Compiling useful statistics would require counting hitchers, the amount of rides they receive, and comparing them to the problems reported. Not an easy task."
- McLeod, Jamie (10 January 2007). "The 'better' Better Way". The Eyeopener. Retrieved 3 May 2013. "The most recent hard evidence I could find about hitchhiking danger was a 1974 study conducted by the California Highway Patrol examining crimes committed by and on hitchhikers. It found that in 71.7 per cent of hitchhiker related crimes the hitchhiker was the victim. It also found that only 0.63 per cent of the crimes reported during the period of the study were hitchhiker-related, and that hitchhikers were not disproportionately victims of crime." Citing: "California Crimes And Accidents Associated With Hitchhiking". California Highway Patrol, Operational Analysis Section. February 1974. Archived from the original on 17 June 2012. Retrieved 3 May 2013. "No independent information exists about hitchhikers who are not involved in crimes. Without such information, it is not possible to conclude whether or not hitchhikers are exposed to high danger. However, the results of this study do not show that hitchhikers are over-represented in crimes or accidents beyond their numbers."
- Kühne, Veit (2002). "Golden Hitchhiking Rules". s.v. "Isn't it too dangerous?". Retrieved 3 May 2013. Citing: Joachim Fiedler et al (1989). Anhalterwesen und Anhaltergefahren: unter besonderer Berücksichtigung des "Kurztrampens" (in German). Wiesbaden, Germany: Bundeskriminalamt Wiesbaden. OCLC 21676123.
- "Hitchhiker's safety". Hitchwiki. Retrieved 2 June 2013.
- Cuba Hitchhiking Guide
- Israel at Hitchwiki
- Israel/Tips for hitchhikers on World Wikia
- Laura Ben-David. Top 5 Things Never to do in a Tremp. 2009.
- Liftershalte (hitchwiki)
- Frank Verhart. Lifts (ad-hoc carpooling) in Netherlands. 2007.
- The Liftershalte: Hitchhiking in the Netherlands.
- Jakub Czupryński (red.), "Autostop polski. PRL i współczesność", Korporacja Ha!art, Kraków 2005. ISBN 83-89911-18-3
- "Warwick Jailbreak 2010 Participants".
- "Warwick Jailbreak 2010". Retrieved 7 October 2010.
- "Jailbreak 1011 Map".
- Dooling, Michael C. (2010). Clueless in New England: The Unsolved Disappearances of Paula Welden, Connie Smith and Katherine Hull. The Carrollton Press.
- Innocence Abroad: Adventuring Through Europe at 64 on $100 Per Week. Xlibris Corporation. 2002. ISBN 978-1401010980.
- Irv Thomas (2004). Derelict Days...Sixty Years onthe Roadside Path to Enlightenment. AuthorHouse. ISBN 978-1418429645.
- Irv Thomas (September 1, 2010). Derelict Days . . .: Sixty-Six Years On The Roadside Path To Enlightenment. AuthorHouse. ISBN 978-1452026053.
- Autostop Polski (in Polish). Korporacja Ha!art. 2005. Retrieved Retrieved December 4, 2006.
- "Autostop Polski". "Carpool Polish. Communist and Modernity". Archive.org. 19 October 2005. Retrieved 9 March 2010.
- Paul Dolman (2010). Hitchhiking With Larry David. South Beach Publishing. ISBN 978-1890115173.
- Ronald Dane (November 15, 2011). Lost On the Way: Adventures in 40,000 Miles of Hitchhiking. iUniverse. ISBN 978-1462043538.
- Mick Pickup (1 July 2012). Itching AfterRovers. Smashwords. ISBN 9781476250755.
- Bennett, Joe (2000). "A thumb in the air". Fun Run and other Oxymoron's. Simon & Schuster UK Ltd. Unknown parameter
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- "Tales of a Female Hitchhiker", retrieved on May 31, 2007.
- "Encyclopedia of Road Subculture: Stephan Schlei". Retrieved 14 Oct 2011.
- "About" on the Hitchhike America website
- "Encyclopedia of Road Subculture: Devon Smith". Retrieved 14 Oct 2011.
- Marek Radziwon - Rozmowa z Andrzejem Stasiukiem
- "Hobo Lifestyle" stories of hitchhiking and life on the go.
- Nwanna, Dr. Gladson I. (2004). Americans Traveling Abroad: What You Should Know Before You Go, Frontier Publishers, Inc., ISBN 1-890605-10-7.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to: Hitchhiking|
- The dictionary definition of hitchhike at Wiktionary
- Tips_for_hitchhiking travel guide from Wikivoyage
- Hitchhiking around the world travel guide from Wikivoyage
- Hitchhiking at the Open Directory Project
- Hitchgathering - the annual event of hitchhikers