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NorthNSW

Why Does The Uk Use Mph And Miles?

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Why does the UK continue to use miles per hour for speed (car speed, wind speed etc.) and also miles for distance measurement? smile.png

This has been a nagging question inside my head for quite some time. As far as I know, most other standard measurements used in the UK are metric (e.g. litres, kilograms).

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'Cos when I'm on me motorbike, saying I've done "the 160.284Kph " instead of "the ton" wouldn't have the same ring about it. I think the general public still work in imperial anyway, ie asking for a pint of beer instead of 568ml, half an ounce of bacca instead of 12.5g, and I never think of distances in kilometres - only miles make any sense to me!

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Well, my school-work switched to metric in 1966 (I was 9!) but I still 'think' in pounds, feet and inches. Maybe, when those of us who still think in imperial have all departed, things'll change. Who knows?

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It does get a bit silly when you have to convert miles/litre into anything sensible like km/l or mpg.

I've worked in both and for certain jobs feet and inches is much more intuitive whereas for engineering and scientific purposes metric SI is much more consistent (not that laminate floorised system that insists on cm!)

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Why does the UK continue to use miles per hour for speed (car speed, wind speed etc.) and also miles for distance measurement? smile.png

This has been a nagging question inside my head for quite some time. As far as I know, most other standard measurements used in the UK are metric (e.g. litres, kilograms).

I guess miles are so well established and ingrained in the UK, that it would cause alot of uproar if we were to change to km, bit like giving up the £ or pint. Also it would cost alot of money to change all the signs too and alot of cars in the UK only have miles on their speedometers (not mine though). Too much hassle, public outcry to deal with and money for authorities to change.

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Miles I could live without but please, don't ever try to sell me a short pint!

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Miles I could live without but please, don't ever try to sell me a short pint!

Ask for 568ml, and not a ml more or a ml less or you'll have them down Trading Standards sharpish.

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It's often a case of people feeling, "if it isn't broke don't fix it", and perhaps a feeling of wanting to maintain some national identity- the UK has used miles and miles per hour for many decades, so why change just for the sake of being the same as most other countries when people get by fine using these measures?

As Nick F mentioned, changing from mph to km/h would require spending a lot of money replacing signs, although it could easily become an excuse for reducing speed limits en-masse, e.g. replacing 30mph zones with 30km/h ones and thus conveniently avoiding having to replace the signs.

Another factor is that since we're so used to using miles and mph, people would have to adjust mentally to using different metrics- it would cause a short-term period of considerable confusion.

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A weather related one. I find it funny how a lot of people use Fahrenheit in summer here, but it's always Celsius in winter. I guess it's just one scale sounds more dramatic than the other, depending on the season.smile.png

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Thanks for the replies.

I was just curious, and wondered if there was a special cultural or historical component behind their use in the UK. I could imagine changing entirely to metric would be bothersome and costly nowdays (not that I was saying that's what the UK should do smile.png ).

My dad (in his late 50s) still talks feet and inches, but talks metric for everything else. Mum (in her early 50s) basically talks metric only as the school systems changed to metric in the early 70s when she was in high school.

Generally those 50-55+ still talk imperial at times (mainly with elevation/distance), most over that age (who still have their marbles) have an understanding of metric even though they were very much adults when it started to become standardised.

For things like beer, you still ask for a pint (http://en.wikipedia....Australia#Sizes). Not that most young people, like myself, really have an appreciation for how much a 'pint' is. There are a couple of other minor things that still use imperial, but most people now rarely have contact with imperial units. I have difficulty in visualising a pound, an ounce, acres etc., because I was raised on the metric system. You briefly learn how to convert between imperial and metric measurements at school, but it's not something they really push.

About the only things the younger generation still commonly talk inches for are TV/Monitors (though in the same breath some will also say it in cms), tyres, and how much you want cut off at the hairdressers.

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For small distances (like height) I use metric. But for long distances I never use metric, except in coursework where we have to use SI units. Imperial just generally makes no sense to me.

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At the other extreme, if we were to go "SI units" crazy then we'd have to start quoting temperatures in degrees Kelvin. It would spawn new concepts like "Britain basking in the 300s", though I doubt that it will really catch on.

I imagine that the continued use of Fahrenheit in the summer relates to commonly-recognised thresholds of heat- the 70s are typically taken to mean comfortable warmth, the 80s heat, and the 90s excessive heat. However I must say that I tend to think more in terms of "low 20s", "high 20s" and "low to mid 30s" respectively for those three categories. Interestingly the replacement of Fahrenheit with Celsius has happened a lot more strongly in the UK than in the USA, despite the USA being more keen to embrace metric values generally.

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I use miles because that's what I've always used.. just like Americans use Fahrenheit because that is what they've always used.. there's no reason to change when the population are happy with how things are, and we're not part of continental Europe so there's no need for consistency.

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At the other extreme, if we were to go "SI units" crazy then we'd have to start quoting temperatures in degrees Kelvin. It would spawn new concepts like "Britain basking in the 300s", though I doubt that it will really catch on.

I imagine that the continued use of Fahrenheit in the summer relates to commonly-recognised thresholds of heat- the 70s are typically taken to mean comfortable warmth, the 80s heat, and the 90s excessive heat. However I must say that I tend to think more in terms of "low 20s", "high 20s" and "low to mid 30s" respectively for those three categories. Interestingly the replacement of Fahrenheit with Celsius has happened a lot more strongly in the UK than in the USA, despite the USA being more keen to embrace metric values generally.

The U.S is keen to embrace metric values? Honestly? Virtually every American I've ever met or ever known hates the metric system because it resembles socialist Europe or some bxllocks like that.

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If someone says to me " it's 20 kilometres away, I haven't a clue how far that is. But 20 MILES I know approx'. I always use miles, feet, inches etc. That, to me is the English way. Why we had to change I don't know.

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1) I was in the Met Office during 1960 to 1963 - we plotted our charts in C and had to convert the American obs which were always in F. It is they who are out of kilter with the rest of the world - a bit like the world series in baseball - hardly anybody else plays it.

2) There has been at least one plane mishap caused because of mistakes made in the units when taking fuel on board - fortunately the one I am thinking of the pilot was able to glide it into safe landing after his engines cut out through lack of fuel.

3) Back in 90's the Irish started changing their signposts over to give distances in kms but the speed limits were in mph and they have only recently changed the speed limits in the last 5 years or so.

4) When driving France I am able to change my speedo over to kph but when calculating distances I am still making a mental conversion to miles to determine the length of the journey.

5) In the pub, as far as I am aware, we are getting our wines in cl measures whilst beer is still in pints.

6) Doesn't making all these mental calculations help us to keep our brains sharp and keep us more intelligent? smile.png

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They dont use celsius in the US just fahrenheit..they use celsius in Canada..Also in Canada it is the opposite to the UK although they have been metric for a while like the UK even to the point where kilometres and kph has replaced miles etc they havent changed to metric in other ways lots of unit measurements are still in feet inches and pounds.

Actually living here it doesnt take very long to be acustomed to kilometres and kph when driving...distances i always think of in a value of time for example i know it takes me 2.5 hrs to drive from Calgary to Edmonton i dont think its 300km or 180 miles...when they converted speeds they did a straight swap 70 mph became 110kph etc they did not reduce the speeds on roads as some seem to think would happen.

Eventually im sure the roads in the UK will change to metric but not for another 20 years maybe.

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I noticed a lot of weather presenters were reading the forecasts in the UK giving the celcius and faranheit readings when I was living there. ( 98-04 ). Especially the milestone ones like 70,80,90 etc.

Also feet is used in UK far more frequently than I ever hear it down here

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3) Back in 90's the Irish started changing their signposts over to give distances in kms but the speed limits were in mph and they have only recently changed the speed limits in the last 5 years or so.

I remember this well due to many visits to Ireland as a child. Even at such a young age I recall finding it bizarre that the distance signs were in km but the speed limit signs were still mph. I think they changed the speed limit signs around 2003/2004 and it doesn't seem to have caused too many problems there. The odd thing is that the modern signs use km for distances but there are still plenty of very old direction signs in the rural areas of Ireland that show miles.

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Well, my school-work switched to metric in 1966 (I was 9!) but I still 'think' in pounds, feet and inches. Maybe, when those of us who still think in imperial have all departed, things'll change. Who knows?

I'm 19 and still use them measurements, I find them easier inf act.

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we've gone part way, you can go to the timber yard and buy an 8ft x 4ft sheet of 18mm plywood :lol:

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