In a society where many individuals have one or more cars, the plight of the carless is often overlooked. For the past 4 years my family has chosen to become a single-car-family, a decision which has brought the plight of the carless to the forefront of my mind. Overall, I have appreciated and enjoyed the bike-commute downtown, the break in schedule that comes with waiting for rides, and the general reevaluation of the rat-race. At times, however, I have been stranded. In the uncharacteristically dark and moist winter that my home, Boise, has endured this year my transportation paradigm has been broadened to extensively utilize four major sources of transportation: biking, running, bugging friends for rides, and hitchhiking.
My hitchiking experiences have always been with a leary thumb. My biggest fear hitchiking and picking up hitchers has never been the whole axe-murder archetype. Statistically, hitchiking is safe. Rather, my fear has always been Johnny (or Jane) Law. Never knowing the laws of my surrounding on this issue, I regret to say I have passed by my fellow traveller on many occasions due to concerns of reprimand. As part of the freedom and heritage of the West, many are fighting to make this information accessible to the public and to change restrictive laws that inhibit the practice of hitchiking. After all, ride-sharing (especially where it is spur-of the moment) is arguably one of the great remedies to the inefficiencies of traffic in places like the Treasure Valley, greatly reduces emissions, promotes community, and may actually stimulate the economy.
In Wyoming, a pro-hitchiking bill introduced by Sen. Leland Christensen passed its second Senate vote recently. “Senate File 29 must survive one more vote before it can move to the House.” wrote Kevin Huelsmann of the Jackson Hole News and Guide. For Christensen and for supporters of hitchiking in the West, the bill represents a step toward freedom. “This is about having the free choice to ask for a ride and the free choice to give a ride,” Christensen said. The bill has been lovingly nick-named the Captain Bob Bill. “The Captain Bob Bill reference is to Teton County resident Bob Morris, a longtime political activist who has favored hitching as an economical and environmentally friendly way to get around. Morris, a frequent bike rider, has also been known to hook up with motorists and then repay them with the offer of a $2 bill,” wrote Huelsman.
In Idaho, my leary thumb has been justified. According to Idaho code 49-709, the state “prohibits a pedestrian from standing on a highway to solicit a ride.” Despite the law, not all travelers have had bad experiences in Idaho (see Hitchwiki.org on Idaho). In a state struggling to attract travelers, struggling to mobilize isolated workforces, and whose reputation has been “pro-freedom,” a liberalization of hitchiking laws makes sense. Perhaps Idaho will be encouraged by her conservative neighbor, Wyoming, and begin legislative efforts to remove laws that restrict transportation.