I was heading home from El Grupo practice this weekend and saw the red and blue lights in the rear view mirror. I was somewhat surprised to see them as I was traveling under the speed limit on an empty road. The offence, obscured license plate by bikes and bike rack.
Clearly, with two bikes on the rack it was impossible to make out the plate. I deserved a ticket based on the law. Fortunately, I was only given a written warning. However, it has made me look at my rack and realize there is no way I can use it and drive “legally”. I own three bike racks and all of them are illegal.
I talked to David Tang, The owner of Ordinary Bike Shop to see if he sells a rear mounted rack that will not block a license plate. David said “This has been an issue with rear mount racks for decades, there are none that allow the plate to be clearly visible when loaded with bikes. The license plate can be moved to a visible location with an aftermarket product”. He went on to say “a few racks allow plates to be seen, but some vehicles have weird plate locations, but those are the exceptions”.
I contacted Ryan Roher with the Pima County Sheriff Dept. for a comment and he directed me to look at ARS 28-2354B3. In a nutshell it says “A person shall display the license plate or plates as follows… so it is clearly legible … In a position to be clearly visible.”
In searching the web for examples of how to deal with this issue I found a solution from Barb Berle. “I now have a lighted license plate holder securely attached to my hitch rack in a position that is highly visible while traveling with bicycles. Since the State of Arizona will not issue a second license plate of the same number, all I have to do is remove my plate from the car and place it in the bike rack holder – easy and secure.” Good idea, if you leave the rack on 24/7 or are OK to remove and reattach your license plate every time you remove your rack. I expect the chances are better of be cited for no plate when you forget the plate on the rack.
There is one positive side to obscuring the plate. If you have the photo cameras snap a photo of you, they can not ticket you. I’m not saying this has happened to me(more then once), but perhaps it is part of the equation in weighting if you want to risk driving with obscured plates.
On a side note, I am meeting with Arizona House of Rep Ethan Orr this week to discuss possible laws that will benefit the cycling community. Perhaps a solution to this exists. Do you have any ideas?