New role for Britain’s road signs

An analysis by the Government of UK economic prospects post-Covid has identified the importance for our economic recovery of services generally and tourism in particular. Meanwhile a separate study by tourism bodies has looked into attracting foreign tourists.

With the long-term decline of manufacturing in the UK, services now account for a large part of the economic activity of the country. London’s financial services face stiff competition from New York and from growing European centres such as Amsterdam and Frankfurt, so the Government’s attention is now turning to hospitality including tourism, in particular foreign tourists and the foreign currency they bring.

Tourism bodies have taken up the challenge and have produced an outline plan for 2022 with the slogan “Visit Britain – past and present”. Consideration was given to promoting iconic tourist attractions in London such as the Houses of Parliament, St Paul’s Cathedral and Tower Bridge but it was thought that foreign tourists will always be attracted to London, and promotion should be directed elsewhere. Three themes have been chosen for the publicity campaigns planned for abroad:  thatched cottages, Morris dancing and our road traffic signs with their Roman and medieval measurement units.

In preparation, the British Thatching Society has been asked to identify outstanding examples of thatched roofs around the country and villages where there are groups of thatched cottages. Morris dancing clubs have been alerted and invited to provide details of their activities. Britain’s road traffic signs with measurements which are incomprehensible to most foreign tourists can, of course, be found everywhere and will be a constant reminder of a country living in the past: the mile goes back to the Roman occupation of Britain almost 2000 years ago; the yard, which is used on road signs nowhere else in the world, the foot and the inch have their origins in the Middle Ages.

So as lockdown, hopefully, becomes a distant memory, if you wish to enhance tourists’ experience of Britain, then dig out from the loft great grandpa’s top hat or great grandma’s bonnet, and brush up on how many feet there are in a yard and yards in a mile, just in case you are stopped by a lost or confused visitor from overseas.

Author: UK Metric Association

Campaigning for a single, rational system of measurement

8 thoughts on “New role for Britain’s road signs”

  1. I think an opportunity has been missed to promote the ancient industry of milestones, a long neglected craft that used to provide valuable export earnings.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Here is a popular American automotive engineering YouTuber making a kind of roundabout case for ditching US Customary units.
    It’s a long-ish video but you can skip towards the end and get the punchline. (If you want all the gnarly maths behind his analysis, watch the whole thing.)
    I just wish he came out more forcefully for switching to metric and be done with it. I note however that various UK commenters pointed out in the Comments section that the UK has a daft way of expressing fuel economy because of the metric muddle there. Eeek!

    Liked by 2 people

  3. If you go to a supermarket and buy some cheese which is cut in front of you, the price might well be £11.50/kg. In other words, we express the cost as the amount we pay (£11.50) for one unit of benefit (1 kg). In the case of fuel economy, we don’t pay in money, but rather in petrol and we measure our benefit in distance traveled – one unit of benefit being 100 km. Thus, to make a parallel with going to the supermarket, we should be measuring fuel economy in litres per 100 km.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Fuel economy is not measured in litres per 100 km, it is measured in kilometres per litre. Litres per 100 km measures fuel consumption.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Britain conversion to Kilometres on roadsigns, that’s a laugh, the Sun goes supernova in a few billion years, so we’ll convert a week before.


  6. I read this and thought, “Oh good heavens no – thatched cottages and Morris dancers are something to be proud of; our road signs are certainly not.”

    Then I noticed the date!

    However, it has got us round to the interesting subject of milestones.

    Though I would like to see road signs converted to metric, I would leave milestones completely as they are. They are monuments to our heritage. I don’t think many people use them seriously to compute distance. Most of the ones that still exist are isolated and most of their set are long gone. It is good however to find a full set. One example I know of is in North Yorkshire, on the road between Guisborough and Whitby. These towns are 22 miles apart; that’s 21 milestones, and all 21 are there. Does anyone know of any other full sets like these?

    Liked by 1 person

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