Any judgement of the hitcher's decline must, however, remain anecdotal. I contacted motoring organisations and Government departments, but, amazingly, none of them had ever even been asked for this kind of information, let alone compiled any. All I could find was the Guinness Book of Records' claim that a German, Stephan Schlei, has hitched 501,750 miles since 1972.
However, photographer Simon Prentice has lived near the start of the M32 in Bristol for five years and during that time has watched the number of hitchers waiting there decline from around eight at any one time to a mere four or five a day. He set out to photograph them for posterity. "I chose the festival season because I thought there'd be more younger people about. Actually, half of them were car delivery men trying to save on their return train fares. They hold up their delivery plates and other delivery drivers pick them up." According to Simon, these drivers get picked up quickest, with single and especially two females together being the next most popular. Older single men can often stand around for hours: "One guy with quite a scary face had to stay overnight waiting to be picked up," says Simon, who also picked up some good tips from the hitchers he met: "Apparently if you're a girl you stand a better chance if you're carrying flowers because people think you are a harmless hippy. And one bloke swore by eating a banana while he hitched because he said it made him look like a softer, new man."