Appendix I: Motorway count and mini questionnaire
Accurate quantification has been beyond the scope and the reach of my investigation. On the other hand I did feel the need to give the reader some rough idea of the scale on which hitch-hiking is practiced in Britain. One way of indicating the size of the city to city aspect of the phenomenon was to count heads at the lead-in to a major motorway. I decided to count the number of people who came and thumbed lifts from the 350 yard strip of what at that time was four carriageway (the situation has now been modified by a new flyover system) that separated the 'K' garage from the M.1 mouth in North London. The prime object of this counting was to discover the hourly flow of hitchers out of London through this point on ordinary week days the year round, and to contrast this with the flow at high holiday periods. 1,026 people were seen hitching in the course of the eleven different observation periods between March 1968 and March 1969. Since three hundred yards is quite a distance there may have been people I just didn't manage to glimpse. There is also the opposite possibility that I may have double counted people seen in the distance The rates of flow were as follows:
1.20 pm to 6.20 pm on Friday 15.3.68: 23.7 per hour
(a half an hour rest was taken in the middle of each of these periods of observation)
Based on the above data one can say that the minimum rate of lift obtention between the 'K' garage and the M.1 mouth was ten lifts per hour on working days (8 am - 6 pm) throughout the year, 250 days.
As well as counting heads I asked all hitch-hikers I could get to and interview (excluding only car delivery men, conspicuous by their number plates) the following questions:
How old are you now?
Though 1,026 people were counted thumbing only 720 answered questions 1, 2 and 3. 685 people gave classifiable answers to all 5 questions. When the flow of hitchers was very heavy I was often unable to work my way up and down the line before people got their lifts away. This was particularly the case with pretty girls who seemed to step out of one car into another.
The exclusion of platers from those questioned accounts for a large part of the discrepancy between the 1,026 on the one hand and the 720 and 685 on the other. The questions were really not aimed at them and would have mainly provoked derisive and counter-productive answers.
The discrepancy between the 720 who answered the first 3 questions and the 685 who answered all 5 is due to two things. Sometimes people, especially couples or girls, got a lift in the middle of questioning and once a car stopped I couldn't continue the interview. A number of older people brushed aside the questions about parental knowledge and approval as to them so totally irrelevant that I couldn't honestly include them in the 'can't remember' category.
Wherever I have quoted the figures obtained from these M.1 mouth interviews in the body of the book I have made it amply clear that these interviewees do not constitute a random sample. So for instance in Chapter 1 I make it quite plain that the 685 people reporting their parents' attitude when they first hitched are simply 685 people I met at the end of the motorway. They are not a statistically valid or trustworthy sample. When I say that a third of them had parents who more or less approved of hitch-hiking, I mean a third of them, not a presumptive third of hitch-hikers in Britain. Given that they are nearly 700 people though, I do feel that their evidence has a bearing on the discussion of hitch-hiking in the context of parent-child conflict. In other words I advance the evidence from this group as a valid part of my informed impression. I am however not trying to make a scientific generalisation.