Thumbs-up in Senate to approve hitchhiking
By Kevin Huelsmann, Jackson Hole, Wyoming
Date: January 28, 2013
Hitchhiking in Wyoming moved closer to being legal Friday when a bill proposed by Sen. Leland Christensen won its second vote in the Senate.
Senate File 29 must survive one more vote before it can move to the House.
“This is about having the free choice to ask for a ride and the free choice to give a ride,” Christensen said Thursday, when the bill was first heard by state senators.
The legislation is being referred to as the “Free Choice for Free People” bill or “Neighbors Helping Neighbors.” Others have informally dubbed it the Captain Bob Bill.
It seeks to eliminate a prohibition in state law against “soliciting a ride.” Christensen’s proposal simply removes that line from state law. The statute still would bar people from soliciting jobs, business or other contributions from passersby.
Christensen, a Republican from Alta, pointed out that Wyoming is one of a small minority of states that does not allow any form of hitchhiking.
“All across the nation there are different levels of hitchhiking allowed,” he said.
Members of the Senate Trans-portation Committee approved the bill 4-1. The full Senate unanimously approved the bill on its first reading. A specific vote count was not available Friday for the second vote.
When introducing the bill Thursday, Christensen gave a lengthy outline of hitchhiking history.
Hitchhiking has deep roots in the country, he said. During World War II, it was considered patriotic to give a soldier a ride, Christensen said.
In the 1960s, amid growing fear about the safety risks to drivers and passengers posed by hitchhiking, many states began to prohibit hitchhiking.
“What we’ve learned is that hitchhiking, even today, is safer than it was in the past,” Christensen said.
He later said the danger of being raped or killed while hitchhiking is nearly non-existent.
“People are more likely to shoot themselves or fall down and die,” he said. “A driver is more likely to commit a crime than a hitchhiker.”
He also said that hitchhiking offers residents a free mode of transportation.
No one spoke against the bill when it was introduced Thursday.
The Captain Bob Bill reference is to Teton County resident Bob Morris, a longtime political activist who has favored hitching as an economical and environmentally friendly way to get around. Morris, a frequent bike rider, has also been known to hook up with motorists and then repay them with the offer of a $2 bill.