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The Road to Independence Day

Independence Day in the United States creates millions of trips. Photo by Jeff Krause.

Today marks Independence Day, commonly known as Fourth of July, commemorating the United States’ independence from Great Britain.

Millions of Americans will celebrate their national history by enjoying parks, fireworks and barbecues, and many of them will use cars to get around. AAA projects 42.3 million Americans will travel 50 miles or more from home during the federal holiday weekend, a 4.9 percent increase compared to last year. Automobile travel will be up 4 percent—the highest it’s been in the past decade. In total, about 35.5 million people—or 84 percent of all Independence Day holiday travelers—plan to travel by car.

As traffic swells during this holiday season, the inextricable link between car usage and road fatalities inevitably follows. July 4th is the “deadliest day, in the deadliest season” for teen drivers, as nearly one-third of all teen driving takes place in the summer months, when students are typically free from school.

Cities in states from Georgia to Washington are providing more sustainable (and cheaper) alternatives to avoiding the holiday’s traffic jam. Everett, a suburb of Seattle, is providing free bus rides to Independence Day festivities, while in Athens, Georgia, an Independence Day float will be powered on muscle and sweat. Getting to a Fourth of July parade in Danville, a suburb of San Francisco, will be easier to access by bike with Boy Scout-produced bike racks. Meanwhile, elsewhere in

California, the City of Piedmont’s parade theme will celebrate lowering carbon emissions, a festive offset for all of those barbecued hot dogs.

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