Hitchhiking in the Netherlands Survey

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A survey distributed among members of the Royal Dutch Touring Club (ANWB) with 791 respondents shows that there is no lack of drivers giving lifts and that fear for negative experiences is unfairly big. It also appears that hitchhiking is a largely forgotten option for travelling to work or college. This offers opportunities, certainly in this time of change in which sharing will be a trend.

Picking up hitchhikers

There is no lack of drivers giving lifts is the theorem of NederlandLift. This conclusion can also be drawn from the survey: no less than 61.7% of the respondents does pick up hitchhikers or would like to do that. The 38.3% that never picks up hitchhikers claim most of all that it would be dangerous (79.6%) and that they never see hitchhikers (29.9%). Other reasons that were mentioned are no room in the car, lack of time and no safe possibility to stop. Or very distinct reasons:

“I like to play cd’s of jazz pianists when I am driving my car. That’s impossible with hitchhikers. As a matter of fact, also if I am driving with my wife.”

Drivers pick up hitchhikers foremost to help somebody (61.3%), because they have hitchhiked as well in the past (49.5%) and because it is a nice way to meet other people (45.0%).

“Hitchhikers always have a story to tell. I am curious for these stories. And it is a waste of petrol to leave someone standing. After all the car is driving anyway!”

Hitchhiking yourself

Of all respondents 58.2% indicates to have hitchhiked themselves. Only 4% of these has predominantly or even only negative experiences with hitchhiking (figure 1); these include discourteous treatment (mentioned 3 times), completely failing to get a ride, waiting long and poor driving style.

Figure 1. Experiences with hitchhiking.

But travelling by means of hitchhiking is experienced positively by the vast majority (nice encounters, good experiences). Over 84% has predominantly or even only positive experiences with hitchhiking.

“Very positive, I met very friendly and particular people, that I would not have encountered otherwise.”

One may wonder how this question would be answered when it comes to public transportation. In the category of negative experiences discourteous treatment also happens there and long waiting times are no exception. Also in regard to positive experiences the question is if the experiences in public transportation would be as positive as in hitchhiking. Research shows that foremost commuting by bus, train and metro makes people unhappy. NederlandLift presumes that the cause is that it is not so common to make contact with other passengers, which does happen automatically while hitchhiking. There is recent scientific evidence that contact with strangers makes people happy. This may explain the high percentage of positive experiences with hitchhiking that appears from this survey.

Hitchhiking to work

Of the 460 respondents that ever hitchhiked, 17% indicates to be actively hitchhiking. Active hitchhikers practice this mostly in leisure time (65.5%), but there are still people who hitchhike to work or college (15.4%). Reasons that were often given to hitchhike are getting in touch with other people, it is free of charge, it is possible everywhere, it is oftentimes faster, it is exciting and it is environmentally friendly.

The most frequently mentioned reason not to hitchhike to work (see figure 2) is that does not occur to them as an option (30.5%). This is followed by not wanting to arrive too late (30.1%), thinking hitchhiking is dangerous since you do not know whom you are riding with (23%) and 21.7% thinks hitchhiking is uncomfortable.

Figure 2. Reasons not to hitchhike to work

Considerations

Most people associate hitchhiking with an activity practiced in leisure time. This survey shows that most active hitchhikers do indeed practice it in their leisure time. NederlandLift has the opinion that hitchhiking can be a serious option to travel to work or to college. In particular for routes that involve a much longer journey time by public transport compared to going by car, it can be a good option, provided there is a good location to start hitchhiking. Currently there are only 8 signposted hitchhiking spots in the Netherlands. We advocate more and better hitchhiking spots on routes where hitchhiking can be a good alternative. There are many initiatives to share cars and rides these days. The revival of hitchhiking does not need to be that big of a step – it is merely a forgotten option.

Hitchhiking touches many of the issues which currently challenge humanity: individualization, financial crisis, climate change, traffic jams and parking problems. Hitchhiking can give a positive contribution to all of these challenges. Hitchhiking needs to be looked upon differently. Hitchhiking is not just for students and hippies with no money. “New hitchhiking” is for smart, confident, inquisitive, open-minded and sustainable students, commuters and every human being.

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