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The Demise of Hitchhiking


Hitchhiking hardly ever happens now. The simple request for a lift from a stranger going in the same direction as you, is now hidden behind Health and Safety and woke protectionism, which have driven hitchhiking from our roads. It didn’t occur to me that I might be in danger and over about four years in the 1960’s of doing it every weekend I only enjoyed going to see my fiancé every weekend and I met some fascinating people.

I had an amazing variety of lifts; from a huge motorbike where, before crash helmet regulations, I just got on the pillion seat with my rucksack on my back, to a Rolls Royce saloon with two working men in the front and I sat crushed up with three elderly women in the back, who complained all the time I was with them about the need for repairs on the Rolls Royce and the hideous cost of having them done.

I hitchhiked in some fascinating cars. A frogeye Sprite which seemed very low to me at the time, to a BMW Isetta bubble car, which was very frightening since it was left hand drive and as the passenger on the right, I was pushed out into the traffic for the driver to see if it was safe to overtake. Once I had a lift with a someone a little older than me and as I got in we got chatting. The conversation got so deep that when I got out it was like leaving an old friend, it felt very strange to realise that I had never met him before the start of the journey and would probably never meet him again.

I had a couple of regular hitchhikes. A Renault Dauphine with worn out shock absorbers at the front, s that every time it was driven into a corner it got down on its knees, which was very scary. I also had a regular hitchhike in an Austin A30 that vibrated so much that you couldn’t make the three-hour journey without needing regular comfort stops!

My best hitchhike journeys were a level above hitchhiking. A friend went away on business and lent me his Sunbeam Rapier Sports Saloon, and so I, the hitchhiker, was able gave lifts to hitchhikers. One journey I made in the Sunbeam was so foggy I drove the 90 miles with the window in the driver’s door open and my head poking out looking for the white line in the middle of the road as it passed by the front wheels.

I think it is sad that we have allowed ourselves to get to where now it is considered too dangerous to trust a fellow human being for a lift home. Would I want to do it now? Probably not, which is sad since I met some fascinating people on the way.

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