Saturday, 5 November 2016

What does "PR" Mean?

Or more specifically, what does "PR" mean when you see it on a road sign?

I have wondered about this for ages, but never found an answer. Perhaps if I knew the slangy term in French for a milestone I could find out, but I have looked online without a result as well as asking everyone I can think of. They are definitely distances, as they signs are often 1km apart - but distances to what? The "PR" doesn't mean Preuilly - although ironically in this particular instance Preuilly is about 9 km away from this sign. Leaving Preuilly towards Tournan St Martin  the "PR" signs seem to indicate a distance to somewhere in le Blanc - but not the middle of town.

I think some of the signs give distances to road junctions, although what qualifies some junctions as worthy of being thus elevated I don't know. Some "PR" signs have an arrow, often pointing in what I think of as the reverse direction (PR 23 may have an arrow pointing in the direction of PR24).

So what's it all about? Can I use these PR signs for some purpose, or are they deliberately a riddle?


  1. poste restante perhaps Just the number of the sign to say where you are like the motorway signs are numbered so if you break down people can locate you if you give them the number...

  2. I didn't know about this until now but PR is a point de repère. You can tell somebody that you're at PR 9 on the D 365 near Boussay if you break down and need assistance, for example, or for any reason. PR markers have replaced or are replacing the older PK (point kilométrique) markers (bornes) now. Here's the Wikipedia article.

  3. Ken abd Col
    That's super - we guessed it was something to do with knowing where exactly you are, but couldnt get a handle on why PR. The distances are really random, so I assume it's a distance from teh start/end of that particular road number

  4. As Ken points out, these signs used to be known as bornes kilométriques (PK), which means they are not often but always placed one kilometer apart. There are smaller bornes, milestones, called bornes hectométriques, which are, as the name implies, located one hundred meters apart. Maybe these have disappeared.

    This being said, on this particular sign it is clear that Boussay is exactly five kilometers away from it. When for some reason, technical or other, the distance cannot be an exact number, then they use the point de repère, PR number, which is an approximate distance from a definite point. In other words, PK and PR are the same, but one is an exact umber, the other is not. I don't understand the discrepancy between the PK and PR numbers on this sign!

    Here is alink in French, that explain very clearly what this is all about.

    Just in case my link, just like Ken's, doesn't work, here it is:

    As an aside, in France, the mileage on all the roads, especially those that used to be known as Nationales, has its origin or point zero, in the Notre-Dame Cathedral. For those religiously and accurately inclined that point zero might be the main altar!

  5. Kilometre zero is on the parvis well outside the cathedral. It is marked by a copper plaque set flush with the cobbles and is noted on Google Earth.

    1. Thank you, Jocelyn, for the information.

    2. The distance from Saint-Aignan to, for example, Vierzon doesn't have much to do with Notre-Dame de Paris.

    3. Because Saint-Aignan is so unsigificant that it doesn't count! :-)

    4. Typical Parisian view of the world ; ^ )