30 Kilometers Per Hour is No Longer Equal to 20 Miles Per Hour: Fun With Road Signs

T urning to the lighter side of things, a road sign erected by the government of Canada just north of its border with the United States announces that 30 kilometers per hour was — yes, the past tense was used — 20 miles per hour, which to me means that that was once to conversion but is no longer the case.

The purpose of the sign is to help travelers based in the United States — who generally are not used to using the metric system — be able to adjust the speed of their vehicles easier while driving in Canada. The speedometers of many vehicles operating in the United States typically measure speed in both miles per hour as well as kilometers per hour.

No matter where I travel, I really do not understand the difficulty in matching the speed of the vehicle to the posted speed limit. If the speed limit is 60, then the vehicle in which I travel is at a speed of 60.

30 Kilometers Per Hour is No Longer Equal to 20 Miles Per Hour

Technically, the speed of 30 kilometers per hour is equal to traveling at approximately 18.64113575 miles per hour; so despite the rounding of numbers, 30 kilometers per hour was never exactly equivalent to 20 miles per hour.

One little trick I have learned over the years is that 88 kilometers per hour is roughly equivalent to 55 miles per hour — more accurately, 54.68 miles per hour — so for me, it is very easy to use that benchmark in not only determining the speed of the vehicle in which I am driving; but also in figuring out the distance of a destination to which I am driving. Sydney is 88 kilometers away? That is roughly equivalent to 55 miles away; and I should be there in less than an hour traveling at 120 kilometers per hour. This really is not rocket science.

The good news is that kilometers are easier to accomplish, as each kilometer is a shorter distance than miles. Traveling 300 kilometers will certainly go by more quickly than 300 miles: “Wow! I already shaved off 120 kilometers this past hour! Top that one, miles!”


I have always joked that even drug dealers — who measure the illegal wares which they sell in grams — are more knowledgeable about the metric system than many American citizens, who seem to have no problem shopping at a supermarket for a half gallon of milk and a two-liter bottle of ginger ale.

The good news is that Americans no longer are required to deal with that pesky 35 millimeter film which analog single lens reflex cameras used. That is one less measurement of the metric system with which people in the United States must deal.

The bad news is that if you thought 30 kilometers per hour was equivalent to 20 miles per hour — well…Canada decidedly is attempting to change your mind; but if you want to still round off the numbers in your head in order for life to be just a little easier for you, I will not tell anyone…

Photograph ©2013 by Brian Cohen.

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