Dear Roddy and All,

It strikes us as quite humorous, here in Australia, to see you still
debating the issue of metric road signs in the UK after all these years.

Australia set 'M-day' for the conversion as 1 July 1974, and our collective
memory of this - after 27 years - is that we changed over to metric in a
single day.

This view of the whole thing happening in a day is, however, not supported
in the official record of 'Metrication in Australia' by Kevin Wilks
(Commonwealth of Australia 1992). Here is Kevin's official recollection.

'Road Traffic Regulations

One of the most important and publicly visible of the metric changes was the
change in road speed and distance signs and the accompanying change in road
traffic regulations. M-day for this change was 1 July 1974 and, by virtue of
careful planning, practically every road sign in Australia was converted
within one month. This involved installation of covered metric signs
alongside the imperial sign prior to the change and then removal of the
imperial sign and the cover from the metric during the month of conversion.

Except on bridge-clearance and flood-depth signs, dual marking was avoided.
Despite suggestions by people opposed to metrication that ignorance of the
meaning of metric speeds would lead to slaughter on the roads, such
slaughter did not occur.

A Panel for Publicity on Road Travel, representing the various motoring
organisations, regulatory authorities and the media, planned a campaign to
publicise the change, believing that public education, not the confusion
that would result from dual sign posts, would be the most effective way of
ensuring public safety. The resulting publicity campaign cost $200 000 and
was paid for by the Australian Government Department of Transport.

In addition, the Board produced 2.5 million copies of a pamphlet, "Motoring
Goes Metric", which was distributed through post offices, police stations
and motor registry offices.

For about a year before the change, motor car manufacturers fitted dual
speedometers to their vehicles and, after 1974 all new cars were fitted with
metric-only speedometers. Several kinds of speedometer conversion kits were

As a result of all these changes, conversion on the roads occurred without



Pat Naughtin
CAMS - Certified Advanced Metrication Specialist
    - United States Metric Association
ASM - Accredited Speaking Member
    - National Speakers Association of Australia
Member, International Federation for Professional Speakers

on 2001/05/14 22.05, Roderick Urquhart at [EMAIL PROTECTED] wrote:

> As some of you know I have advocated an Irish-style gradual approach to
> metricating road signs. My reasoning was that with general apathy towards
> metrication in the UK, chipping away at the problem would bring us to a
> stage where changeover was more acceptable to the public.
> I have written to my MP advocating this and the replies from Lord Whitty
> indicate that DETR is firmly in favour of a quick changeover if one is to be
> done at all but is absolutely non commital on timescales. Nevertheless, I
> think it is worth getting the point across that quite a few in the UK want
> to see a changeover.
> I quote from his letter (MY CAPITALS):
> "We have no evidence that road users have any difficulty in understandng
> imperial distances on traffic signs. ALTHOUGH WE HAVE A GROWING POST-BAG OF
> MILES DOES NOT SEEM TO BE AN ISSUE. We don't think that a transitional
> period, where both units are displayed, is either necessary or particularly
> helpful. In remains our view that any change to metric distances would best
> be made quickly, not inconsistently and piecemeal."
> I agree with the view that a quick changeover would be ideal especially if
> coupled with a proper public education program. However, such a changeover
> would require tremendous political will and therefore has a high threshold.
> Therefore we need to be sure that the "growing post-bag" at DETR is
> pro-metric rather than pro-Imperial.
> Contact information for Lord Whitty is:
> Lord Whitty
> Parliamentary Under Secretary of State
> Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions
> Eland House
> Bressenden Place
> London SW1E 5DU
> Yours
> Roddy
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