Are bicycle hitches legal on the back of a car?

Yes and no: Wheels expert Eric Lai explains and provides some alternatives

By Eric Lai Wheels.ca

Nov 7, 2013 2 min. read

Article was updated 10 years ago

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Q: What?s the legal rule regarding transporting bicycles on the back end of a car?

Many cars? taillights are largely obscured by bicycles on a trunk or trailer hitch rack, so it?s hard to see the brake and signal lights. This includes Toronto Police cars I?ve seen carrying police bicycles on a trailer hitch rack.

I don't like driving behind such vehicles in daylight, and it?s especially dangerous at night.

A: Ontario Transportation Ministry spokesperson Bob Nichols replies:

There are a number of relevant Highway Traffic Act provisions that could be applicable to the scenarios you have described.

Subsection 13(2) HTA requires the licence plate to be plainly visible at all times and not obstructed by any attachments to the vehicle. Subsection 62(4) HTA makes it an offence to obstruct a lamp on a motor vehicle such that it isn?t clearly visible at a distance of at least 150 metres from the front or rear, and subsection 62(19) HTA also requires a light illuminating the licence plate to be visible at a distance of 150 metres.

Additionally, clause 73(1) (b) HTA makes it an offence to drive a motor vehicle upon a highway with any object placed in, hung on or attached to the motor vehicle in a manner that will obstruct the driver?s view of the highway or any intersecting highway.

While our government strongly supports green and active transportation, this cannot come at the expense of road safety. The ministry supports motorists using bike rack models that don't result in their loads obstructing the vehicle licence plate or the vehicle's lighting system.

Eric Lai adds:

In other words, roof carriers may be preferable to trailer hitch racks if you?re concerned about blocking the taillights and rear licence plate.

Incidentally, as this reader and others have noted, police cruisers have sometimes been spotted utilizing rear bike racks that may violate the statutes noted above. That fact notwithstanding, if an officer feels your lights are obstructed, you could be charged.

Tickets are issued at police discretion and subject to interpretation/validation by the courts. You could argue that police committing the identical violation ?puts the judicial system into disrepute? but, ultimately, it?s up to the justice to decide each individual case.

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