Why We Need to Reconsider Hitchhiking
Ryan Cooper: It's fun, cheap, and generally safe
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted May 14, 2015 12:32 PM CDT

(Newser) – The US is dealing with the burdens of crappy public transportation and pricey infrastructure, for which there is a rather simple solution: more hitchhiking, writes Ryan Cooper at the Week. Yes, the once-popular pastime may seem "more risky than playing Russian Roulette with five of the chambers loaded," but it's also "a way to increase our existing transit capacity without spending money—and all of us might just make a few friends in the process," writes Cooper. He has fond memories of regularly hitchhiking 400 miles to South Africa's capital of Pretoria from the small village he called home a few years ago near the border with Botswana. Sure, the trip would take him 12 hours, "but it was dirt cheap, usually costing about $8," he says.

There, hitchhiking is "one of the bedrock elements of South African transportation infrastructure," but the practice is frowned upon in the US. Why? Cooper points to a Talking Points Memo report describing Americans' anxious views on hitchhiking as "the result of a series of actions taken by the state to curtail deviant behavior" beginning in the 1950s. There are risks, but "you're far more likely to be killed in a standard car accident" than meet a murderer, Cooper says. Plus, you can help ease traffic, provide a small income for car owners if you choose to pay, and make the activity safer by putting more ordinary people out there with the weirdos. Perhaps more importantly, "more hitchhiking might help Americans unclench and ease up on the galloping paranoia," Cooper writes. Click for his full piece.