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The Campaign against Metric Signage

The best defence against Kilometre "K-Day" is to act now against the current encroachments, in particular, by purging illegal metric signs from every corner of the United Kingdom. By rolling back the metric conversion of road and pedestrian signs, we can send a message to future governments that we will NEVER accept the use of kilometres on our roads.

Illegal kilometre signs have been seen in West Yorkshire, Hackney and Cornwall

Anyone can contribute to the campaign against metric signage. We suggest you use the following plan of action:

1) Locate illegal metric signs. The signs to identify are:

  • All directional signs marked in metres or kilometres, including those for pedestrians as well as motorists. Metric distances on direction signs are unlawful even when accompanied by mile/yard indications.
  • Any sign with metric-only indications for restrictions on traffic width, length and weight, so long as there are no corresponding imperial signs alongside.
Metric road distance signs: ILLEGAL   M
Metric pedestrian distance signs: ILLEGAL  
Metric-only height restrictions: ILLEGAL (unless accompanying imperial-only sign)
Metric-only width signs: ILLEGAL (unless accompanied by an imperial-only width sign)   2 metre sign


Dual imperial/metric height restriction signs: LEGAL
Dual imperial/metric width restriction signs: LEGAL   Dual metric0imperial width sign
Metric-only height signs accompanying imperial height signs: LEGAL
Metric-only width signs accompanying imperial width signs: LEGAL

2) Record the illegality. Having located unlawful metric signs, take photographs for reference and campaign purposes. Make a note of the location of the sign (ie street or junction). Survey the locality for further breaches of the law. Report the sign on BWMA's Metric Transport Signage Discussion Forum.

3) Write a letter of complaint to the relevant authority. If the sign is on a local road, write to the transportation or highway department of the county council. Their address will be in the telephone directory under the name of the county council.

If the sign is on a motorway or trunk road, write to the Highways Agency at (for England), St Christopher House, Southwark Street, London SE1 0TE.

A letter may read like the following:

"Dear Sir or Madam,

While travelling along [name] Road on [date], I saw a sign near the junction of [road], the giving the [distance/height/width, etc] in metres. I enclose a photograph for your assistance.

As you may be aware, the 2002 Traffic Signs Regulations and General Directions require that [select as appropriate]:

  • distances on signs for [motorists/pedestrians] be described in yards and miles only. Metric units are not permitted.

  • height and width restrictions be described in feet and inches. Metric may also be used, but only alongside, and not as an alternative to, imperial units.

While I appreciate these signs may have been erected in error, they are illegal. Please can you give me an indication as to when these signs will be replaced with legal signs displaying imperial units. Please also give an assurance that any other metric signs within your authority will also be replaced.

I look forward to hearing your reply at the earliest convenient opportunity.

Yours faithfully, etc

Do not enter debates with local councils about arguments for and against metric signage (eg to help tourists). If a local authority believes that metre signs are beneficial, then it is up to them to have the law changed. Until then, you need only argue that they must comply with the law. If you wish, copy the letter to the Traffic Signs Policy Branch of the Department of Transport, Local Government and Regions (DTLR), Zone 3/21, Great Minster House, 76 Marsham Street, London SW1P 4DR.

IMPORTANT: Regarding pedestrian signs, some councils try to evade their legal obligations by saying these are not distance signs but "information" signs. This as bureaucratic fiction; do not be diverted by this explanation. Signs in metres are illegal and councils have no choice under law but to replace them.

Pedestrian sign
Don't be fooled - metric pedestrian signs are UNLAWFUL

4) Approach the District Auditor. If the council does not correct the illegality, make a complaint to the District Auditor. The role of the District Auditor is to ensure that public authorities only spend council taxpayers' money on items that the law permits. A complaint to the District Auditor may read as follows:

"Dear Sir or Madam,

Request for Investigation into Unlawful Expenditure by [town/city] Council.

The above Council has spent taxpayers money on unlawful metric road signs, that is to say, signs not permitted by the 2002 Traffic Signs Regulations and General Directions. These regulations lay down clear requirements for units of measurement that may and may not be used for signs intended for use by road traffic and pedestrians.

In summary, the regulations permit [select from the following as appropriate]:

  • imperial-only signs for distance but not the use of dual metric-imperial or metric-only distance signs;
  • imperial-only or dual imperial-metric signs for height and width but not metric-only unless accompanied by an imperial-only sign;
The signs in question [give details of type] appear at [give street/junction location].

The 2002 Regulations represent the law of the land and [town/city] Council is obliged to conform with these regulations, just as the public is required to conform with parking restrictions, etc. Local authorities are required to be aware of the law on units of measurement.

I would ask that you to consider appropriate financial penalties on those Members and Officers who authorised this unlawful expenditure. Any expenditure not authorised should be met by them and not Council taxpayers.

The offence is compounded by the wilful refusal of [officer's name] to remedy the offending signs, even when the illegality has been pointed out to him [enclose his or her letter].

Yours faithfully, etc

5) Raise the matter in the letters column of the local newspaper. Send them a photograph of the unlawful metric sign. The following points may be useful:

  • The purpose of road signs is to communicate information regarding distance and speed to motorists and other users. We have such a system: yards, miles and mph. Metric conversion is therefore not necessary.
  • Metric signs are less accurate than customary signs. For example, using metres to describe the width of bridges (eg 4.4m) achieves an accuracy of only one tenth of a metre, or four inches. Imperial signs (eg 14'6") are accurate to within one inch.
  • The view that metric signs help Continental tourists is negated by the corresponding lack of help to American tourists. In practice, Continental tourists are often interested by signs showing miles, yards, feet and inches, while Americans are delighted to discover that they are not alone in using them.
  • Dual yard/metre and mile/kilometre signs should only be allowed in Britain on the condition that similar signs are adopted across the Continent.
  • Altogether, there are 2.5 million signs in England alone, of which perhaps 2 million make some reference to distance or speed. The costs of conversion would be huge.
  • According to Gallup, 95% of people in Britain think in miles compared to only 3% for kilometres. Changing to kilometres would cause misunderstanding, make enforcement of speed limits more complicated and increase the likelihood of accidents.

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