Hitchhiking (also known as thumbing or hitching, autostop) is a means of transportation that is gained by asking people, usually strangers, for a ride in their automobile or other road vehicle. A ride is usually, but not always, free.
The hitchhikers' methods of signaling to drivers differ around the world. Many hitchhikers use various hand signals.
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, United Kingdom and most of Europe, the gesture involves extending the hitchhiker's arm toward the road and sticking the thumb of their outstretched hand upward with the hand closed.
For example, 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 other parts of the world, it is more common to use a gesture where the index finger is pointed at the road.
Hitchhiking is a historically common (autonomous) 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 the 400-series 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), Autostrade (Italy), motorways (United Kingdom and continental Europe), or interstate highways (United States), although hitchhikers often obtain rides at entrances and truck stops where it is legal at least throughout Europe.
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. There now are websites like hitchwiki and hitchbase, which are platforms for hitchhikers to share tips and provide a way of looking up good hitchhiking spots around the world.
|Wikivoyage has some tips for safe hitchhiking.|
Two studies on the topic include a 1974 California Highway Patrol study and a 1989 German federal police study. The California study found that hitchhikers were not disproportionately likely to be victims of crime. The German study concluded that the actual risk is much lower than the publicly perceived risk, and the authors did not advise against hitch-hiking in general. They found that in some cases there were verbal disputes and inappropriate comments, but physical attacks were very rare.
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 for 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. Many do not own cars so hitchhiking is a common practice especially in and around villages.
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.
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 in Poland has a long history and is still popular. It was legalised and formalised in 1957 so 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.
Hitchhiking became a common method of traveling during the Great Depression.
But 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. Still, 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.
Today, hitchhiking is legal in 44 of the 50 states, provided that the hitchhiker is not standing in the roadway or otherwise hindering the normal flow of traffic. Even in states where hitchhiking is illegal, hitchhikers are rarely ticketed. For example, the Wyoming Highway Patrol approached 524 hitchhikers in 2010, but only cited eight of them (hitchhiking was subsequently legalized in Wyoming in 2013).
In popular culture
- 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 – "The Hitch-Hiker", by Roald Dahl
- 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.
- 2003 – Evasion by CrimethInc.
- 2003 – Off The Map by Hibikina Chickena and Kika Kat
- 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.
- 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
- 2011 - The Short, Short Hitchhiker by Stanley Gurcze, edited by Richard Menzies. 
- 2013 – The Last American Hitch-Hiker: Tales of Wander by Mark Dean Kneeskern.
- 2013 - The Adventures of Space and Hobo by Ken Birks
- 2015 – The Long Hitch Home: Tasmania to London on a thumb and a prayer chronicles Jamie Maslin's journey hitchhiking over land and sea from Tasmania to London.
- 1960 – "Hitch-Hike", an episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents based on a short story by Ed Lacy
- 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 very 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 hitchhikers in Pennsylvania, Delaware, and New Jersey
- 2004 – The L Word, 'Losing it"
- 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.
- Patrick Falterman American itinerant, canoeist, adventurer
- Ilmar Island (Saar) – last and only hitchhiker recorded in the Guinness Book of Records for hitching between Key West, Florida to Fairbanks, Alaska. (5 days, 20 hours and 52 minutes). Category only appeared once.
- 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
- W. H. Davies – a Welsh poet and tramp, who hitchhiked America during the early 20th century.
- hitchBOT – a Canadian hitchhiking robot
- Ludovic Hubler – 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 – Beat Generation author, hitchhiked in America and wrote many books about his experience.
- Chris McCandless – the subject of the book, Into the Wild; hitchhiked throughout the western region of North America in the early 1990s.
- Jim Morrison – of The Doors; 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, 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.
- 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
- John Waters – filmmaker, writer, actor and artist. Author of Carsick: John Waters Hitchhikes Across America.
- Nedd Willard – writer, artist and journalist.
- Ford Prefect – a space-hitchhiking travel writer in The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy
- Hitchhiker – a hitchhiking lunatic killer played by actor Edwin Neal in the original Texas Chain Saw Massacre film (1974)
- The Hitcher – a green cockney man who was featured in The Mighty Boosh
- Flexible carpooling – Hitchhiking formalized via designated meeting points
- 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.
- Joachim Fiedler; et al. (1989). Anhalterwesen und Anhaltergefahren: unter besonderer Berücksichtigung des "Kurztrampens" (in German). Wiesbaden, Germany: Bundeskriminalamt Wiesbaden. OCLC 21676123.
- Trampen ohne großes Risiko, Zeit Online, 1990. Stating: In one of 10,000 rides, a woman is raped and in two of 1,000 rides, there is an attempted rape.
- "Hitchhiker's safety". Hitchwiki. Retrieved 1 January 2014. This is a link to the referenced article; however, note that not all of the source website has been peer-reviewed, and that we cannot guarantee that all of its advice is correct.
- Cuba Hitchhiking Guide
- 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
- Dooling, Michael C. (2010). Clueless in New England: The Unsolved Disappearances of Paula Welden, Connie Smith and Katherine Hull. The Carrollton Press.
- Laura Hancock (2013-01-13). "Wyoming Senate committee debates, advances hitchhiking bill". Casper Star-Tribune. Retrieved 2014-05-30.
- Bennett, Joe (2000). "A thumb in the air". Fun Run and other Oxymoron's. Simon & Schuster UK Ltd. ISBN 0-684-86136-4.
- Guinness Book of Records, 1980 page 466
- Madrigal, Alexis C. (June 12, 2014). "Meet the Cute, Wellies-Wearing, Wikipedia-Reading Robot That's Going to Hitchhike Across Canada". The Atlantic.
- "Encyclopedia of Road Subculture: Stephan Schlei". Retrieved 14 Oct 2011.
- "Encyclopedia of Road Subculture: Devon Smith". Retrieved 14 Oct 2011.
- Marek Radziwon – Rozmowa z Andrzejem Stasiukiem
- 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 DMOZ
- The Hitchiker's Guide to North America
- Hitch-Hikers Handbook