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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Sep 2009
    Location
    Tucson, AZ
    Posts
    2,048

    Solution for bike rack obscuring license plate? Expensive ticket!!!

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    After 4 years of driving with a hitch mounted rack on a Honda Fit, we were stopped Friday night and given a citation because the rack obscured the license plate - $197 ticket. I am pretty sure the cop was just looking for opportunities to stop people- 11 pm near the University of Arizona, students still on break and it was pretty quiet. Our friends were stopped for a tail light at the same time.

    The rack is a Thule helium rack and has a U-shaped piece that drops down when not in use. When the U-shaped piece that holds the bikes is up- the plate is mostly visible, but not with bikes on the rack.

    So after driving for 4 years in 6 states, over 50,000 miles without any problem, we have a dilemma: Fight the ticket, remove the rack and bring proof (I can carry one bike easily, two bikes without front wheels but not anything else) or move the license plate (not too easily done- it can be put into a window if it is lit up) OR just pay the fine and take chance that we won't be stopped again.

    Anyone else ever experience anything like this?

    Sharon
    2016 Specialized Ruby Comp disc - Ruby Expert ti 155
    2010 Surly Long Haul Trucker - Jett 143

  2. #2
    Join Date
    May 2007
    Location
    Columbia, MO
    Posts
    2,051
    Missouri last year passed a new law that provides for a 3rd plate specifically for this situation. The "plate" is actually just a piece of paper you tape in the window. But some people got stopped and ticketed, and approached the Missouri Bicycle & Pedestrian Federation, and we got it passed. It was the easiest piece of legislation we have ever gotten passed.

    A lot of people wanted to know why we didn't try to get the law changed so that bikes obscuring the plate wouldn't result in a ticket. The answer is because that is seen as making police officers' jobs harder. The 3rd plate solution is a little inconvenient for cyclists-- you have to fill out a form, pay a fee, and when you get your $11 piece of paper you have to fold it & tape it into your window-- but there is no way we could have gotten an exception passed for cyclists.

    I think AZ has a state bike/ped advocacy group? Sorry, I think you better pay this ticket, but tell the bike/ped group about it and let them know Missouri's experience. It's an easy win so it's great for the group, relatively low effort and then they can present it as a piece of legislation that they pushed through. It looks great on those fund-raising letters.
    2009 Trek 7.2FX WSD, brooks Champion Flyer S, commuter bike

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Sep 2009
    Location
    Tucson, AZ
    Posts
    2,048
    We either have to pay the ticket or go to court to fight it- but then we will definitely have to prove we took care of it if my husband goes to court. We do have a good local bike/ped advocacy group here.
    2016 Specialized Ruby Comp disc - Ruby Expert ti 155
    2010 Surly Long Haul Trucker - Jett 143

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Sep 2007
    Location
    Uncanny Valley
    Posts
    14,645
    It shouldn't be too hard to run a license plate light off the trailer light connector block. Get a magnetic license plate frame like car dealers use, mount the light to it, and you're down the road. Assuming your rack is steel, anyway, which hitch-mounted racks normally are?

    If I understand you right anyway ... the ticket was for an equipment violation, not for failure to display plates, and it's one of those things that you just have to go to court and prove you fixed it?
    Speed comes from what you put behind you. - Judi Ketteler

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Sep 2009
    Location
    Tucson, AZ
    Posts
    2,048
    Good idea Oakleaf-

    The citation was something about obscuring the plate. I think the officer could have offered to issue a warning but chose to write the ticket.
    2016 Specialized Ruby Comp disc - Ruby Expert ti 155
    2010 Surly Long Haul Trucker - Jett 143

  6. #6
    Join Date
    May 2013
    Location
    california
    Posts
    1,204
    This is a common complaint with people who use rear racks. I've seen it come up a number of times on another bike forum. It's a law that's not often enforced but can be. I've always used a roof rack so I've never had to deal with it. I would think there has to be a license holder for the racks made by someone…that would work especially well for those keeping the rack on 24/7, more of a pain for those who don't. There is definitely a market for one.
    One of the problems for law enforcement is camera's not being able to record the plate, especially in a one plate state like Arizona. Hopefully more states will follow the lead of Missouri and allow a simple solution! The good news is that it's not a moving violation so no points etc.
    Last edited by rebeccaC; 01-14-2014 at 12:49 AM.
    ‘The negative feelings we all have can be addictive…just as the positive…it’s up to
    us to decide which ones we want to choose and feed”… Pema Chodron

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Dec 2010
    Location
    Boise Idaho
    Posts
    1,192
    No advice on the rack, but good to know. I successfully challenged a ticket for an expired plate a few years ago though and felt quite vindicated. Was glad I took the effort to go to court. I was ticketed for expired plate the day I put my Mom in the hospital when she was dying of cancer. I attempted to explain to the officer and offered to correct the very next day (which I did) but he still wrote me a ticket. Thankfully the judge had much more compassion and threw it out. Good luck, it seems extremely unfair that a warning wasn't issued.
    Sky King
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  8. #8
    Join Date
    Apr 2013
    Posts
    131
    It is what it is right? We want laws to be enforced, but want to object to what we see as petty reinforcement when it isn't in our favour. I would ***** and moan and pay. Who has time to go to court. The officer will have camera footage, I expect. A friend here went to court to fight a 4 way stop violation and she was completely taken aback that they played actual proof of her infraction LOL.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Sep 2009
    Location
    Tucson, AZ
    Posts
    2,048
    My husband is willing to go to court if we decide to try to apply a solution. Honestly, the officer could have given us a warning like a fix-it ticket and chose not to.

    It's just there isn't a super easy fix-it....
    2016 Specialized Ruby Comp disc - Ruby Expert ti 155
    2010 Surly Long Haul Trucker - Jett 143

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Apr 2011
    Location
    perpetual traveler
    Posts
    1,302
    Quote Originally Posted by azfiddle View Post
    My husband is willing to go to court if we decide to try to apply a solution. Honestly, the officer could have given us a warning like a fix-it ticket and chose not to.

    It's just there isn't a super easy fix-it....
    Some states have changed their laws to provide exceptions for things like power chair lifts, and even in Texas, "a bicycle or motorcycle rack that is attached to a vehicle in a normal or customary manner." Time for a lobbying effort?

    I am in Tucson right now, driving around with the rack on my car. And not only that, my plates show as expired as my tabs are lost in forwarding never never land.

    One solution is to mount a plate on the rack, but that may violate laws that require plates to be mounted to the body of the vehicle. Maybe a plate in the window?
    Trek Madone 4.7 WSD
    Cannondale Quick4
    1969 Schwinn Collegiate, original owner
    Terry Classic


    Richard Feynman: “The first principle is that you must not fool yourself and you are the easiest person to fool.”

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Jan 2002
    Location
    On my bike
    Posts
    2,510
    Was the plate totally obscured? If not, I'd put the rack on and take a picture. If not, I'd fight it anyway on the basis that the cop could have issued a warning - given the many miles you've driven.

    Also (this used to be the case, not sure if it still holds) if the cop doesn't show up, you automatically win. What do you have to lose?
    To train a dog, you must be more interesting than dirt.

    Trek Project One
    Trek FX 7.4 Hybrid

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Feb 2010
    Location
    California
    Posts
    216
    I would think most hitch mounted bike racks would cause this problem. I have a saris hitch mounted rack and have never been pulled over for it. But your post got me to thinking. If I just got one made like this that matched my actual plate and then hung it off the back of my rack with some wires, if this would solve the problem. I suppose it might not be technically legal but at least the plate number would be visible.
    Bike Friday Petite Crusoe
    Terry Trixie
    Gary Fisher beater bike

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Feb 2006
    Location
    DE
    Posts
    1,221
    I think I would contact Thule and describe the situation. They may have the ammunition, or DOT approvals or some such certification that you can take to court. Certainly there are hundreds of thousands (?) hitch racks out in the world, and if this were a real problem Thule, Saris, Yakima, and forums like this would know about it. Hell, Thule might even pay the ticket for you. It can't hurt to talk to them about this.
    Martha
    Work hard, be nice.
    Read a book.

  14. #14
    Join Date
    Sep 2009
    Location
    Tucson, AZ
    Posts
    2,048
    We ordered an illuminated license plate holder- not sure where we will put it. My husband is planning to go to court. Good advice on contacting Thule.

    Thanks all
    Sharon
    2016 Specialized Ruby Comp disc - Ruby Expert ti 155
    2010 Surly Long Haul Trucker - Jett 143

  15. #15
    Join Date
    Oct 2007
    Location
    Indianapolis, IN
    Posts
    1,039
    Digging up an old dead thread here but I just had this exact same thing happen to me in Indianapolis. I just took my roof rack off b/c I didn't like the noise it was creating. It's my birthday, heading down to the bike shop to get my ride tuned up and bam, got a ticket. Suck suck suck!!!

 

 

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