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Roadside AmericansThe Rise and Fall of Hitchhiking in a Changing Nation$
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Jack Reid

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9781469655000

Published to North Carolina Scholarship Online: May 2021

DOI: 10.5149/northcarolina/9781469655000.001.0001

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Goin’ Down the Road Feelin’ Bad

Goin’ Down the Road Feelin’ Bad

The Decline of Hitchhiking, 1976–1988

(p.161) Chapter 6 Goin’ Down the Road Feelin’ Bad
Roadside Americans

Jack Reid

University of North Carolina Press

This chapter connects the declining popularity and acceptance of hitchhiking with the nation’s economic stagnation in the late 1970s and the rise of the New Right during Ronald Reagan’s two terms in office. An increasingly risk-averse American society began to associate hitchhiking with subversive behaviour and crime. Unlike the youthful faces on the road in previous generations, the hitchhikers of this period—deemed “drifters” by the media—were predominantly out of work and desperate. The conservative movement’s frank acceptance of inequality and staunchly individualistic attitudes, in tandem with changing hitchhiking demographics, weakened the cooperative sentiments of previous decades, providing an easier justification for motorists to ignore so-called ride beggars. Although hitchhiking in many ways gelled with the nation’s automobile-centered transportation infrastructure, its unpredictability and cooperative nature ultimately did not mesh with a more risk-averse and privatized American society.

Keywords:   Ronald Reagan, New Right, Privatization, Transportation infrastructure, drifter

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