The Highway Hitchhiker
This article came to mind as I was going to work in my car; the traffic report said there was a backlog on the highway because a hitchhiker was standing near the left lane. (Darwin, where are you?)
Every day in Quebec 10 pedestrians die, struck by a vehicle. Tha's more than cyclist and motorcyclist casualties. There's no doubt that several pedestrian deaths could be avoided if hitchhikers respected elementary rules and hitchhiked in a secure way.
Maybe my early-morning highway hitchhiker actually caught a ride, or maybe the police picked him up because I didn't hear about a pedestrian death that day. He was lucky. However, others who try the same may not be so fortunate.
Everybody knows what hitchhiking is; either you've tried it yourself, or you've spotted one by the roadside, luggage in one hand, sign in the other, dog panting at his/her feet. But I wanted to learn more about this strange mode of transporation, especially where If any) the authorized places to hitchhike were located. Because I highly doubt that the left lane of the highway is one such place.
In Canada, it is generally forbidden for hitchhikers to be on highways; furthermore, certain provinces have adopted more or less restrictive rules concerning this practice. For example, in British Columbia and in Ontario it is possible to hitchhike in the shoulder, whereas in Alberta and in Manitoba, no provincial law governs this phenomenon and you can stand wherever you please. However, municipalities in those regions have the power to impose their own rules and to forbid hitchiking all together.
In Quebec, articles 448 and 449 of the Quebec Safety Code formally forbid hitchhiking in certain places. Article
448 states that a pedestrian must not be on a roadway to solicit a ride, employment or business from an occupant of a vehicle. And article
449 states that a pedestrian cannot solicit a ride in area where overtaking is forbidden.
In other words, if pedestrians paid attention to the law there would be no hitchhiking on highways, including onramps and exits, as well as on secondary roads where passing is illegal and where there is no shoulder... However, you could still legally hitchhike on sidewalks, and where passing is authorized.
It is also important to remember that hitchhiking has some real risks (for both the hitchhiker and the driver who picks him/her up): You don't know anything about the hitchhiker you pick up, just as you know nothing about the driver you get into the car with. So, you have to be careful whether you are a driver or a traveller.
If cheap travel is your goal and you're in Quebec, consider low-cost ride sharing which has existed for more than 25 years: Allostop. With Allostop, motorists and travellers can join and organize rides together. This service is very popular, especially when travellers are trying to get to towns or cities where public transportation is infrequent or non-existent.
Whatever your mode of transportation, be careful. Motorists, keep your eyes peeled for pedestrian presence on or near highways, and make sure if you stop for a hitchhiker to stop in a place where it is safe (and legal) for both you and the hitchhiker. You don't want to get a ticket because you tried to help a hitchhiker!
If you plan on hitchhiking, or even just walking near a busy road, consider wearing bright clothing. Wearing black will not make you very visible in low light (read: early evening and morning). Try to respect the regulations pertaining to where you are. And please, avoid highway left lanes!