Honda Fit with Bike Rack Obscuring License PlateA  Tucson couple was left with a $197 ticket after being pulled over because their bike rack obscured their license plate.

Sharon Goldwasser sent an email after receiving the ticket. Here’s what she said happened:

Just wanted to share a recent experience that other drivers with hitch-mounted bike racks might want to know about.  Friday night around 11 pm we were driving east on Broadway near the U of A and were pulled over by a TPD officer.  The officer issued a citation for obscuring the license plate, and it comes with a $197 fine (no warning).

We drive a Honda Fit with a hitch rack (semi-permanently mounted). It is a 2 bike Thule rack with a U shaped top piece for holding the bikes- and I had lowered the top piece to prevent people from walking  into it when not in use.  When the top piece is down in that position, it does obscure more of the plate than when it left up in position to hold the bikes-  however if two bikes are on the rack, you can’t really see the plate.

We have had this rack mounted on 2 different vehicles for nearly 4 years, driven it in 6 states, over 50,000 miles, and this was the first time we have been pulled over or notified that it was a problem.

When asked what we could do, the officer mentioned that people with wheelchair racks mount them on the outside.  If the license plate was in the window he state it would need to be illuminated.  But we are apparently still responsible for the citation.

Arizona law says plates must be clearly visible. Here’s the pertinent part of A.R.S. 28-2354:

B. A person shall display all license plates as required by subsection A of this section until their lawful use expires or is canceled or revoked. A person shall maintain each license plate so it is clearly legible. A person shall securely fasten each license plate to the vehicle as follows:

1. To prevent the plate from swinging.

2. At a height of at least twelve inches from the ground to the bottom of the plate.

3. In a position to be clearly visible.

C. A person shall maintain each license plate so that the name of this state at the top of the license plate is not obscured.

It seems to be rare that cyclists are pulled over for this infraction, but using a rear rack could open cyclists to expensive tickets.

The best solution I can find is purchasing a magnetic plate holder like car dealers use. The downside is that is is less secure than screwing it into the car, but will allow the plate to be moved from behind the rack.

Have you ever been pulled over or received  ticket for this?

17 thoughts on “Cyclists ticketed for license plate obstructed by bike rack”
  1. Police Departments/law enforcement is not about protecting & serving anymore but rather REVENUE GENERATORS….I trust a used car salesman over any Cop any day

  2. The amount of the citation may in fact not be $197- that was based on a hasty reading of the pamphlet accompanying the ticket- my husband is checking on this today and requesting a court date.    We have ordered an illuminated license plate holder that we could place in the window- if we can figure out how to attach it-  it’s pretty inexpensive at $7.99, but we’ll see if it works.

    I also contacted Thule to see if they had any device or suggestion and the customer service rep who responded said they had gotten quite a few contacts in recent weeks on this topic, and he was forwarding it to their  R & D department

    Sharon Goldwasser

  3. The law as posted doesn’t state from which vantage point the plate must be visible. What of people pulling trailers? Doesn’t that render a license plate stock mounted just as invisible from certain points of view?

  4. I was pulled over for this very thing about 2 years ago on Golf Links near Craycroft.  I drove a Dodge Ram truck with a hitch rack that I had left in the folded position to give the vehicle more clearance.  The officer pulled me over for obstructing my license plate but only gave me a warning and told me to put the rack down (he watched me do it right then and there).  I left the rack down for the rest of the drive to work that morning but put it back in the folded position once I got to work and have left it up ever since when not in use.  I understand their point, but geez.

  5. Rack makers must be aware how the rack design impacts license plate visibility and should at least include a heads up message. Seems rather pricey for a minor violation that had no physical risk to anyone.  A guy at work was ticketed for backing into a street parking space. His cop friend told him that license plates must be visible for patrol car scanners.  As they cruise around town our license numbers are scanned and checked for any outstanding issues. Gotta be street legal.

  6. Three observations on this:

    1) It’s probably in the best interest of cyclists, pedestrians and, yes, motorists that motor vehicle plates be readily and easily seen by scanners, eyeballs, whatever.

    2) The TPD officer should have been enabled to issue a warning, perhaps some education/explanation. 

    3) The industry (of which Thule is a member) apparently has some catching-up to do. This kind of publicity might nudge…

  7. Sharon and hope  to reconfigure  the license plate with the Thule Helium bike rake such that we don’t have to be worried about future tickets. We’d been cited with CIVIL TRAFFIC violation A.R.S.2854 B 3 but the information card given to us by the citing officer only listed A.R.S.28-2354 A 1. That was indicated as an equipment violation. The card also said if our violation code was not listed to call the court number for information. I did today. After 30 minutes on hold a very helpful lady answered and assisted me with all my questions. Indeed, the penalty would be $197 if uncontested. I needed to pursue Option 5: Request a Hearing by Mail. Once they received my request they would send me a new court date other than the one stated on the ticket. This would in in 30 to 45 days, supplanting the court date stated on the ticket, 2/4/2014. She said that even though the information sheet says the request for a hearing needs to be sent 14 days before the initial court date, as long as it arrived before that date it would be ok. 

    But I send it out today since it would still be 14 days before the court date on the ticket. 

    I asked what would have happened at the first court day and she said they would let me know about what what she had just told me.

    Obviously, as you can see in the picture above, I cannot contest that the rack does not hide the license plate. My best strategy is to show the judge that we’ve solved the problem and thus, the fine will be waived. 

    It appears to me that every so often the officers swarm an area and uses any little pretext to pull people over. I can’t help but to feel these campaigns are in part revenue generating exercises. Late on a Friday night by the university, sure they’ll get an occasional drunk driver, but otherwise, they are just shearing the sheep. 

    Keep in mind that Tucson seems to at least once a year specifically target bicyclists and pedestrians. TPD will get funds from the state to support the campaign. Then they’ll issue tickets, similarly about $200, to j-walkers and other unfortunates.

    So, follow my advice: Ride Clean.

  8. Boat trailers and other trailers have license plates in Arizona.  Car carriers and bike racks have different rules than trailers because there is no axle.

  9. StrawHousePig As stated in another reply, trailers must have their own license plates.

  10. Steve Wilson StrawHousePig While that isn’t in question, having a plated trailer doesn’t reveal the status of the plate on the vehicle. Does it even have a plate? What is its number? Is the registration current?

    My point is that even though the plate is blocked from certain angles doesn’t mean the plate is illegible and the law (as posted) isn’t very clear about that.

  11. StrawHousePig Steve Wilson SHP – good questions.  It would seem we know 2 things: 1) it’s OK for a trailer to obscure the view of your license plate from the rear, and 2) it’s not OK for your bike rack to do the same.

  12. In Germany, there is a small industry where people make plates for just this purpose.  I don’t know that it’s  a legal plate, but it matches the plate on the car and is mounted to the rack.  Also, Germany requires LIGHTS on the bike rack.  Seems excessive to me…

  13. Red Star  Having a plate on a bike rack is standard in Germany.  I figured here, we aren’t so proper.  Guess not.

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