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# The McFurlong

An approximate measure of driving distance
 (+2) [vote for, against]

Many widely accepted and understood units of measure are based on ubiquitous things. Examples include the teaspoon or the cup. Other more logically defined units (for instance the gram or the meter) are not as easily grasped by non-engineers. They are great for science but arguably less so for day-to-day use.

A common need when driving is to estimate distances and travel times. A difficulty posed here is you are isolated from what you are measuring---you can’t touch it like you can a teaspoon. Another problem is varying types of road and traffic congestion. Ten kilometers on a highway out in Montana is a very different thing than ten kilometers through downtown London.

What is needed is a simple, easily understood unit of distance that takes into account congestion. If such units were marked out on the roads using easily seen signs, estimating travel distances and times would come naturally.

Such signs already exist in the US and UK, and are rapidly being spread throughout the world. They feature a bright red field and a stylized “M” in yellow. They are the signs in front of McDonalds Restaurants.

I propose that the distance between these signs is “the McFurlong”. Not a precise unit of measure to be sure, but a good tool for your average Joe to roughly estimate the effort required to get from point A to point B.

Doing some back-of-the-napkin calculations, I see that there are over 30,000 McDonalds in the continental US, and over 1,000 in the UK. In both cases, this means the (again, very rough) average distance between two restaurants is on the order of 18 km.

Of course this assumes an even distribution of restaurants across the land, which is clearly not the case. The number drops to under a kilometer in congested city centers, and is considerably higher out in the boondocks. But the laws of economics insure that the spacing of these restaurants accurately represent the population density of their local areas, hence their congestion.

Conveniently, the McDonalds corporation has provided web based tools to calculate the number of McFurlongs between any two points, for both the US and UK. See links.

 — krelnik, Mar 13 2003

[krelnik, Oct 04 2004, last modified Oct 05 2004]

UK McFurlong calculator http://www.mcdonald.../LO_tripPlanner.asp
[krelnik, Oct 04 2004, last modified Oct 05 2004]

McDonalds to go wireless http://slashdot.org...35255.shtml?tid=187
[po, Oct 04 2004, last modified Oct 05 2004]

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 The general idea is rather clever, but the practicality is very limited. Plugging in a route I often take across my state, there are 50+ miles of state highway between some McDonaldses and only a mile or two in between in the cities. The travel times don't map to each other very well.

I suppose this is somewhat similar to the price of a Big Mac in various currencies being used as an economic measure. What a strange world.
 — jnoel, Mar 13 2003

 //But the laws of economics insure that the spacing of these restaurants accurately represent the population density of their local areas//

 You can throw that out the window, krelnik. For years McDonalds has exploited US small business legislation by claiming funding to open more and more branches, even in places they knew wouldn't make money.

- For anything promoting brand recognition of evil.
 — sambwiches, Mar 13 2003

 This has been around in the UK since medaeval times; the so-called "pub" method of navigation. Directions are traditionally given from pub to pub - "Turn right by the Red Lion, down the hill past the Greenbank, go past the Thatched Tavern on your right, then turn right again at the Blue Barrel" (This is a genuine set of directions by the way). Since the density of pubs is much lower in rural areas, it compensates nicely for the different travel speeds.

Incidentally, decent pubs are much better than MacDonalds. In fact, even crappy pubs are quite a bit better than MacDonalds.......
 — 8th of 7, Mar 13 2003

// the denisty of pubs //
First time through, I re-assembled that as "dentistry of pubs".
 — angel, Mar 13 2003

Sp. corrected.
 — 8th of 7, Mar 13 2003

 //McDonalds has exploited US small business...// I guess I have inadvertantly found another bakery taboo. Ah, well, you live you learn.

I've also found that I find it extremely hard to predict what ideas people will find funny on the bakery. Anyone ever have any luck doing that?
 — krelnik, Mar 13 2003

 // extremely hard to predict what...people...find funny on the bakery //

 But that's true of life in general. If anyone knew what was going to be a sure-fire comedy hit they'd be very wealthy. Some do better than others. You just have to keep trying and not dwell on your failures.

One feature of the Bakery is that it has a proportion of anally-retentive engineers who will treat even the most outre and blatantly humorous idea seriously .....
 — 8th of 7, Mar 13 2003

...and vice versa.
 — angel, Mar 13 2003

OK, maybe a bit harsh. I'll go back to neutral, but you're not having even a sniff of a croissant. Read Eric Schlossers' Fast Food Nation and get ready to hate the golden arches.
 — sambwiches, Mar 13 2003

Well I never said I like them, in fact the whole idea was intended as a commentary on the sad ubiquity of the damn places.
 — krelnik, Mar 13 2003

 Is this an idea, or an advertisement?

Oh, in hawaii, you could use the ABClong... which is approximately half a city block.
 — ye_river_xiv, Aug 24 2006

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