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  1. #1
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    Hitch bike carriers: legality of blocking license plate

    Hello,

    I just got into biking last year and started to go to various trails & group rides in the area. I was getting very tired of the hassle of putting the bike in the car, so I got a rear hitch platform bike carrier. After installing it today, I noticed that it blocks the view of my license plate both when in use (by my bike) and when folded up in the storage position. I hadn't thought about that previously, so I did some searching and found the following in regards to NY state:

    NYS Vehicle & Traffic Law Sec. 402-b
    "...the view of such number plates shall not be obstructed by any part of the vehicle or by anything carried thereon..."
    Does anyone know if this is a big issue? Do the police tend to ticket people using the rear hitch bike carriers? Or is it a case of as long as you're not doing anything else wrong, they let it go? I hate to think I just wasted a few hundred bucks.
    Last edited by SirDilbert; 04-21-10 at 09:03 PM. Reason: corrected a typo

  2. #2
    Senior Member BlazingPedals's Avatar
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    I've wondered about that, too. But I've never seen or heard of anyone ticketed for it.

  3. #3
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    Yes, technically illegal in most (all?) states, but almost always ignored. We've carried bikes on the back across much of the country and have never been stopped or questioned about the bikes blocking a clear view of most of the license plate. If you're still concerned you could attach a plate to the rack or bikes with the state and license number so it could be read when the normal plate is obstructed - at least that would demonstrate you're not trying to hide anything. It'd be similar to what people do with car covers when parking their car on a public street - they paint the license number on the cover so it can be read easily.

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    When you get the ticket handed to you is the wrong time to say, "maybe I should've moved it..."

    I've been away from the car scene for almost 6 years now, so I don't know if there are still aftermarket frames that can be mounted elsewhere on the back of the car. (Keck, maybe the back window, that's what half the crowd here in IN does....)

  5. #5
    Senior Member Nermal's Avatar
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    I normally leave the hitch rack on year round, whether it carries a bike or not. I'm sure it is illegal but I haven't been cited in the four or five years since I got the rack. Quite possibly, proof of cycling (more or less) establishes you as one of the good guys. Now, if you get cited for really excess speed, or other safety violation, the officer just might decide to load on the paperwork.

    I have considered paying for a personalized vanity plate to place in the rear window. That would probably make my vehicle legal again. If I didn't have tinting film installed, I would definately get one and tape it in place. Anyone know how tape would affect the film?
    Some people are like a Slinky ... not really good for anything, but you still can't help but smile when you shove them down the stairs.

  6. #6
    You gonna eat that? Doohickie's Avatar
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    A while ago this was a big issue in Texas. Apparently a law passed that stated no characters on a license plate could be even partially covered. It made alumni license plate frames illegal, OMG!


    It's generally ignored.
    I stop for people / whose right of way I honor / but not for no one.



    Originally Posted by bragi "However, it's never a good idea to overgeneralize."

  7. #7
    Banned. Mr. Beanz's Avatar
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    I've been carrying bikes on our cars for 15 years. Never had a problem. I even leave the tailgate down on my truck while hauling the tandem. Never been stopped.

    It's one of those things they use when they want to stop you for no reason. I've been stopped for the little light on my license plate being out, at nigh when the friggin' plate is reflectorized and illuminated with headlights anyways!

    Cop asked if I do drugs, then let me go!

  8. #8
    Senior Member wahoonc's Avatar
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    It is "usually" overlooked. If the cop wants to pull you over they might use it as an excuse. I have had that done before when I had a huge trailer hitch head that partially obstructed my plate. The cop that pulled me was a local and I had out of state tags...

    Aaron
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    Thanks everyone for the information. I had a suspicion, since I've seen people using them, that it was likely a case of the cops will typically overlook it. But, as others mentioned, they may use it as reason to pull you over if there is something else amiss, or if they want to check out something else. Still, I wanted to verify my suspicion by checking with the community since if it was a big problem, I suspect people would have heard about it. (If anyone has, please post such.)

    I'm going to use it as is. If I do get ticketed, then I'll have to put my "superb" engineering skills to use and jerry-rig my license plate (with a light to avoid a different ticket) onto the bike rack. Hopefully it won't come to that.

  10. #10
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    I have been pulled over for it.

    As I was leaving a local tavern.

    Asked to get out of the car.

    Given a roadside sobriety test.

    Asked what I thought I would blow.

    Told the officer about point 04.

    He was crestfallen when it came up 039.

    This was Officer Percival who is known for harassing cyclists all over town.

    After all, everybody knows we're just a bunch of pot smoking, tree hugging, hippie freaks.

    The moral of this story is:

    Never ever try to cross Utah driving a Volkswagen Microbus with a Greenpeace sticker.

    You'll get pulled over in each and every county.

    If you're lucky you'll only get frisked.

  11. #11
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    Also be sure to check to make sure your tail lights/ brake lights can be seen clearly! I think this is enforced more that the plate, but the plate would be a "Nice add on" ticket!

    Chris
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    Quote Originally Posted by green814 View Post
    Also be sure to check to make sure your tail lights/ brake lights can be seen clearly! I think this is enforced more that the plate, but the plate would be a "Nice add on" ticket!

    Chris
    It may not be an add-on, but rather they could annotate it on the citation. For example if you get a citation for speeding or illegal turn and the citation says license plate obscured but not as a violation, then the judge may perhaps be less lenient if you were to go to court because the LEO already let you go for the obscured plate.

  13. #13
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    First person with a comment that makes sense. Of course their going to pull you over if they feel like it, do you want to take that chance!! I have the Thule and its has the spot for the license plate/with light. Very simple to install and cheap.I just don't know if you can take plate off vehicle and use it? Im going to use it. Better safe than sorry. Headed out west and have a lot of different laws being enforced, or not. PEACE!!!!!

  14. #14
    Senior Member RPK79's Avatar
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    I have a friend that was pulled over and ticketed for nothing other than having the plate blocked by the bike carrier. She had local plates and the officer stated he was pulling her over because her plates were blocked. The only really safe solution is to buy one that has a place for mounting the plate and move the plate each time, but as mentioned above, it's pretty rare to have any issues with it.
    1995? Giant Iguana

  16. #16
    Senior Member Retro Grouch's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Doohickie View Post
    A while ago this was a big issue in Texas. Apparently a law passed that stated no characters on a license plate could be even partially covered.
    In Missouri large pick up trucks aren't required to even HAVE a rear license plate.
    My greatest fear is all of my kids standing around my coffin and talking about "how sensible" dad was.

  17. #17
    Senior Member GravelMN's Avatar
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    With all of the agricultural equipment and vehicles around here, if the LEOs started ticketing for obstructed rear license plates, bicycle racks would be the least of their problems. I've been stopped for speeding while I had a bike in a rack on the back with no problem. At my daughter's university, I got pulled over by a university patrol because I had several bikes on the rack and they used the obstructed plate as a reason to stop me, but after running my plates and license, and getting a valid explanation for me having multiple bikes on the back (I was hauling my daughter's bike as well as a couple donations for the bike co-op) I was let go without a citation. I actually was kind of glad they checked out a strange pickup on campus hauling bikes around, it made me feel a little better about the safety of my daughter's bike (an old steel MTB turned commuter, but a good bike none the less).

  18. #18
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    On my truck, I either have a bike rack, or a hitch shelf installed, all the time. You basically never can see my plate. Been like this for years, and Ive been pulled over plenty of times for "valid" reasons, and nothing has ever been said.

    On my Audi, I dont run a front plate. Here in NY, we're supposed to have both. Same thing, Ive been stopped for other stuff, and the cop never says anything. For this situation though, I do carry the plate under my seat and have a few zipties in the car, so if he DOES want to be a ****** and write me a ticket, I can just slap the plate on the front of the car right there and be done with it... And then remove it a mile down the road.


    Basically, don't worry about it. I think the only time you'd get pulled over and have the plate blocked be the reason, is if you're out driving 3am saturday night/sunday morning, and the cop is just looking for a reason to pull you over to see if your drunk. Back when I was a teenager, I was driving at around the same time, 3am, with a buddy of mine.. We got pulled over for... wait for it... ASHING a cigarette out the window. NOT throwing out a butt, but ASHING a cigarette. His response to how is that valid? Arson, sir. Its a serious offence. Purely wanted to see if we were drunk, or doing drugs, or both, etc.

  19. #19
    Old fart JohnDThompson's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JmanEspresso View Post
    On my Audi, I dont run a front plate. Here in NY, we're supposed to have both. Same thing, Ive been stopped for other stuff, and the cop never says anything. For this situation though, I do carry the plate under my seat and have a few zipties in the car, so if he DOES want to be a ****** and write me a ticket, I can just slap the plate on the front of the car right there and be done with it... And then remove it a mile down the road.
    What exactly is the problem with leaving the front plate on?

  20. #20
    Senior Member Nermal's Avatar
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    I was also wondering?
    Some people are like a Slinky ... not really good for anything, but you still can't help but smile when you shove them down the stairs.

  21. #21
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    Its mostly an aesthetic thing. I like the cleaner look.

    Unlike a lot of the newer audi's, which have a spot molded into the grill for the plate to sit, mine is different. My car, to mount a US style plate, basically looks like an afterthought. Like ok, we made the bumper and front grille design, it will look nice and clean with a Euro plate.. and then a US plate requires the owner to drill four huge bolts through the bumper and mount an aftermarket holder, for the plate. Truly looks bad IMO.

    Example images:

    With Euro Plate:
    http://img525.imageshack.us/img525/1664/dsc3570d.jpg

    With No Plate:
    https://c1.staticflickr.com/5/4105/5...cbd10c5e_z.jpg

    With US Plate:
    http://image.eurotuner.com/f/techart..._cornering.jpg


    I think it looks terrible with the US plate just bolted onto the front like that. Its also not uncommon for performance luxury cars to not even come with a front plate mount from the dealership. Plently of BMWs, Mercedes, Audis and others don't even have one, even here in NY. Now, I know the B5 S4 doesn't always fit the 2014 mold of performance luxury compared to what the S4 looks like today, but that would a faulty misconception. She is every bit of luxury on the inside and with the ride as she was one day 1, and my particular S4 is even more so the performance beast Audi made her to be. Twin Turbo V6 and mine puts over 300hp on the ground..to ALL FOUR wheels. I do love my car gents

  22. #22
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    I remember when I was travelling in France during the summer a few years back. Everyone that had a hitch bike rack had an extra number plate and a light bar on the bike rack so that nothing was obscured. I have always liked that and wanted to get my own but never had the actual need.

    I am overly safety conscious though, do not want a reason to be harassed and do not want to be a hypocrite when I complain.

  23. #23
    Formerly Known as Newbie Juha's Avatar
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    Yes, in most of EU you would expect to get a ticket if you neglected to set up the extra plate + lights bar. And apparently saying you're a tourist doesn't get you off the hook. In Finland, for some reason, this is not strictly enforced.

    --J
    To err is human. To moo is bovine.

    Who is this General Failure anyway, and why is he reading my drive?


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  24. #24
    Travelling hopefully chasm54's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Juha View Post
    Yes, in most of EU you would expect to get a ticket if you neglected to set up the extra plate + lights bar. And apparently saying you're a tourist doesn't get you off the hook. In Finland, for some reason, this is not strictly enforced.

    --J
    But it is in the UK, France, Germany...

    The racks come with a cable to connect up the lights, and one has to buy an additional licence plate to display on the rack.
    There have been many days when I haven't felt like riding, but there has never been a day when I was sorry I rode.

  25. #25
    Formerly Known as Newbie Juha's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by chasm54 View Post
    The racks come with a cable to connect up the lights, and one has to buy an additional licence plate to display on the rack.
    Thule racks and such brands, yes.

    But the cheep and cheerful, low tech, no-name racks have no provision for an additional plate or lights. You can rig them up with the extra bar with plate though.
    To err is human. To moo is bovine.

    Who is this General Failure anyway, and why is he reading my drive?


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