Is Hitchhiking Illegal in B.C.?

No Hitch Hiking SignIn case you missed it, there was a publicized furor on Saltspring Island this week concerning hitchhiking. 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 R.C.M.P. 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.

I.C.B.C. reports an average of one collision per year in this location for the period 2011 to 2015. 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. (The BC Courthouse Library suggests that this might not be the case in their article Hitchhiking in British Columbia.)

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:

No Hitch-Hiking Pickup is Illegal

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 hitchhike alone or refuse the ride.

Looks like some fairly confusing traffic movements could occur due to the proximity of the entrancew/exit of the Embe Bakery parking lot to the intersection of Seaview Avenue with the Fulford Ganges Road.  If a vehicle is also stopping at the end of the parking lot to pick up a hitchhiker, then even more confusing situations could occur.

Quite possibly, some of the Embe Bakery customers have rightfully complained about the danger of driving into or out of the parking lot to the extent that the business owner is concerned about hitchhiker pickup jeopardizing his income.

A practical first step is to eliminate congestion and confusion due to hitchhiker activity.  If complaints and concerns continue, the next, and much more expensive, step may be to relocate the entrance to the business parking lot away from the intersection.

... create a space beside the road specifically for passenger pickup and dropoff?

In reply to by CompetentDrivingBC

I said exactly that in the introduction to the newsletter yesterday. I'd bet that the cost would be much the same as the construction of the barrier too.

Why not enable instead of disable? Isn't that what community is all about?

The minutes of the related Salt Spring Island Transportation Commission meeting include the following:

“Chair Williams briefly reported on the following: The RCMP will be closing down the hitch hiking location in front of Embe Baker. There are no suitable locations along that stretch of road to pull off and pick up passengers safely.”

If there was a suitable location in that stretch of road, I suspect that it would have already been reserved for a bus stop for the Fulford Harbour run of the local transit system.

Note that there is no free land alongside the rising roadway. Considering the costs of obtaining sufficient land (do municipal policies authorize land to be appropriated to create a hitchhiker pickup point?), and of designing, installing and maintaining the feature, together with reducing the possible use of subsidized public transit while creating a significant hazard to moving vehicles, I see insufficient incentive for the municipality to proceed with the idea.


I continue to see no basis for challenging Chair Williams statement that there are no suitable locations along that stretch of road to pull off and pick up passengers safely.

Well obviously the roadway - and, in particular, the shoulder area - need to be improved, in order to accommodate how they're being used.

And surely, it's better to allow people without vehicles (or the ferry costs) access to Saltspring? Particularly if they live there, but also for visitors who will help the economy.

If I drove off the ferry onto Saltspring, and somebody had their thumb out, I would pick them up. So long as there was a safe location.

So fix the roadway, and the shoulder. Just needs some gravel and asphalt. And would meet the needs of the community much better than attempted prevention.