Is hitch-hiking Illegal?

In case you missed it, there was a publicized furore on Saltspring Island last week concerning hitch-hiking.

The Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure announced the construction of a barrier at the Embe Bakery on the Fulford Ganges Road that would interfere with the use of a common spot for soliciting rides from passing vehicles.

The RCMP also advised that they would enforce the no stopping on the roadway rule. Minutes of the Salt Spring Island Transportation Commission report that this will happen because there is no safe spot to pull off of the roadway to pick up and drop off passengers at that location.

ICBC reports an average of one collision a year in this location for 2011-15. Of the five, two were casualty crashes and three were property damage only. There is no indication if any of these crashes involved pedestrians or hitchhiking.

The simple act of hitchhiking itself is not illegal in B.C. Being on the roadway to solicit a ride is however. "Roadway" means the portion of the highway that is improved, designed or ordinarily used for vehicular traffic, but does not include the shoulder.

So, one may stand on the shoulder of most roads to solicit a ride.

Freeways (Schedule One Highways) are the exception. Pedestrian are prohibited here unless they are attending to a broken down vehicle.

Pedestrians who solicit captive audiences, intimidate or harass resulted in the creation of the Safe Streets Act. One cannot be on a roadway and solicit a person who is in or on a stopped, standing or parked vehicle.

In the Safe Streets Act, roadway has a different interpretation. It means a highway, road, street, lane or right of way, including the shoulder of any of them, that is improved, designed or ordinarily used by the general public for the passage of vehicles.

Before we leave pedestrians to examine the duties of drivers, remember that if you are walking alongside the road, you must walk in the direction facing traffic if there is no sidewalk. It is common, and illegal, for hitch-hikers to walk along the highway with traffic between times when vehicles are passing.

Stopping and standing to pick up hitchhikers can land a driver in trouble, too. If you are outside of a business or residential district it is forbidden to stop, stand or leave a vehicle on the roadway. In other words, unless you can get completely off of the roadway, you must not stop to pick up a hitch-hiker.

Stopping to pick up a hitch-hiker on the freeway is illegal as well when the freeway is posted with these signs: (image of sign attached)

Inside of town rules for stopping and standing are more complex, involving both the Motor Vehicle Act and bylaws. It is also common to regulate stopping, standing and parking by posting signs here as well.

According to Hitchwiki, travel by thumb in Canada is mostly safe. There have been instances such as the Highway of Tears that show the opposite. You are ultimately responsible for your own safety.

If you are uncomfortable, don't hitch-hike alone or refuse the ride.

Story URL: http://www.drivesmartbc.ca/pedestrians/hitchhiking-illegal-bc


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About the Author

Tim Schewe is a retired constable with many years of traffic law enforcement experience. He has been writing his column for most of the 20 years of his service in the RCMP.

The column was 'The Beat Goes On' in Fort St. John, 'Traffic Tips' in the South Okanagan and now 'Behind the Wheel' on Vancouver Island and here on Castanet.net.

Schewe retired from the force in January of 2006, but the column has become a habit, and continues.

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