Thumbs down: Does coronavirus mean hitchhiking has reached the end of the road?

Simon Calder
Simon Calder

A road tradition that has endured for more than a century has been killed off by coronavirus – that is the conclusion of two out of three people who responded to an online survey.

In a Twitter poll conducted for The Independent, with more than 1,000 self-selecting respondents, 68 per cent said that the worldwide pandemic would put an end to thumbing.

The figure was exactly the same among people who said they had previously hitchhiked, and those who were not former hitchers.

But three prominent hitchhikers believe reports of the demise of thumbing rides are premature.

Hilary Bradt, the guidebook writer and publisher, said: “Only the other day I was thinking, ‘Oh I could hitchhike back’ from one of my long walks – before realising that of course I couldn’t, because no one could stop.

“But that’s not the same as hitchhiking being killed off, dead and buried, is it?

“Once cars are allowed to take passengers I shall be back to hitchhiking, although it may be in a year’s time when people are less paranoid. So, not killed off but convalescing.”

The co-founder of Lonely Planet, Tony Wheeler, said “Coronavirus is another nail in the coffin, but hitchhiking is a coffin that can clearly handle an awful lot of nails – even bat-infected ones.”

Edmund King, AA president and a former hitchhiker, said: “It seems that the corona virus has unsurprisingly made more people give a thumbs down to hitch-hiking.

“Let’s hope that in the future, when the threat from Covid has vanished, that some more hardly and optimistic souls will revert to hitchhiking and that more drivers will remember how they helped their local communities during lockdown and extend that kindness to share the freedom of the road with hitchhikers.”


In many parts of the world, including the UK, hitching a ride would breach lockdown rules.

Even if a driver were to break the rules and pick up a hitchhiker, the stipulations from the Department for Transport would make it an uncomfortable experience: “Where people from different households need to use a vehicle at the same time, good ventilation (keeping the car windows open) and facing away from each other may help to reduce the risk of transmission.

“Where possible, consider seating arrangements to optimise distance between people in the vehicle.”

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