The number of people hitchhiking has reached such a low that thumbing a lift could soon be obsolete in the UK. So what’s behind the decline – safety, the trend for lift sharing – or just a cultural shift?
I was quite saddened to hear that 91% of drivers are unlikely to give a hitchhiker a lift, and only 1% of drivers have hitched themselves this year.
I’ve got rather rosy memories of hitching around Newquay on my first holiday away with friends, and of thumbing lifts across Greek islands with a girlfriend.
But then I stopped and thought about it. Have I hitched in the past year? No. Have I picked up a hitchhiker in the past year? No… but then again, I’m not sure I’ve actually seen one in the past year either.
Why have we stopped hitchhiking?
So what’s behind this almighty thumbs down to hitchhiking? Edmund King, of the AA which did the research, had a stab at explaining it:
‘Perhaps cheaper coach travel, growth in car ownership, online lift sharing sites and personal safety fears have all contributed to the decline in hitchhiking.’
Perhaps – after all, car share schemes such as Liftshare and National CarShare are becoming increasingly popular. Last year saw the first ever Liftshare Week and there are now over 400,000 people signed up to its network.
But, while I can accept that coach travel is a cheaper option, what about the extortionate price of train travel and keeping your own car? If that isn’t enough to make you stick a thumb up, I don’t know what is.
And when it comes to safety, it’s worth considering those who argue that you’re more likely to be run over than assaulted while hitching, making a high-vis jacket something of a necessity.
A culture shift is needed
Regardless of the arguments for and against, the fact remains that every day there are 10 million empty seats on our roads, so we clearly have the capacity to re-embrace hitchhiking.
But do we want to? I’ve picked up hitchers in the past, but only when my boyfriend’s with me, and usually when we’re travelling abroad. Something tells me that it’s such a rare occurrence to see a hitcher in the UK nowadays that we’re too shocked to stop and holler ‘jump in!’
Thumbs-up or thumbs-down to hitchhiking?
Thumbs-down (57%, 90 Votes)
Thumbs-up (43%, 68 Votes)
Total Voters: 158