Bike racks can't obscure licence plates or vehicle lights

Hitch-mounted bike racks

“I have a question about rear hitch-mounted bike racks, which are readily available in stores. We use one with four bikes on it for our family and when the four bikes are loaded, they obstruct the view of the rear licence plate, brake lights and turn signals. The corner lights can be seen through the spokes of the bike wheels but not clearly. Any opinion on this because these are widely used?”

You seem to have described the problems associated with this type of bicycle carrier clearly yourself.

The Motor Vehicle Act Regulations state, under the General Maintenance section:

4.04 (2) Lamps and reflectors required by this Division

(c) must not be shielded, covered or obscured by any part of the vehicle or load or by dirt or other material.

Lights and reflectors on the rear of the vehicle must be mounted as far apart as practicable.

The hazard might be greatest during the day when bright sunlight coupled with this obstruction prevents the brake or signal lights from being visible to a driver following you. The resulting rear end collision would certainly be considered to be at least partially your fault.

With regard to the license plate, the regulations state:

Plates to be unobstructed

3.03 A number plate must be kept entirely unobstructed and free from dirt or foreign material, so that the numbers and letters on it may be plainly seen and read at all times and so that the numbers and letters may be accurately photographed using a speed monitoring device or traffic light safety device prescribed under section 83.1 of the Act.

In order for enforcement by intersection safety cameras to be effective, the rear licence plate of the vehicle must be able to be photographed. When they are not, the driver of the vehicle may be issued a violation ticket with a penalty of $230. It appears that police currently issue about 100 of these tickets each year in B.C.

Before you scrap the rack, or sell it to some other unsuspecting purchaser, it could easily be made legal again. Moving the license plate to the back of it along with duplicating the lights that are obstructed on the vehicle would not be expensive or difficult to do.

It appears these solutions may be purchased on line for less than the cost of the obstructed plate fine.

Unfortunately, what is not clearly stated with these is if they are compliant with the rules and are marked accordingly with the appropriate DOT codes.

You may wish to buy from a reputable vendor so the item can be returned for a refund if it is improper.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.

More Behind the Wheel articles

About the Author

Tim Schewe is a retired constable with many years of traffic law enforcement experience. He has been writing his column for most of the 20 years of his service in the RCMP.

The column was 'The Beat Goes On' in Fort St. John, 'Traffic Tips' in the South Okanagan and now 'Behind the Wheel' on Vancouver Island and here on Castanet.net.

Schewe retired from the force in January of 2006, but the column has become a habit, and continues.

To comment, please email

To learn more, visit DriveSmartBC

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

Previous Stories