Short Guide To Bicycle Racks For Cars.
This weeks article looks at various bicycle rack designs as well as bike rack laws around the country. Each state has its own roads authority and state legislation in respect of bike rack laws. Essentially all legal requirements in respect of the carriage of bicycles on your car focus on the number plate of the vehicle being clearly visible from a set distance. This is important to keep in mind when fitting bike racks and transporting your bicycles.
There’s nothing better than getting out to the park and taking your bike on a ride with the kids or family. You have to remember that transportation of the bikes has to be done with safety also in mind. The racks below are just examples of the styles that you can buy depending on the rear shape of your car. There are various styles on the market that I didn’t even realise until I had a look into this weeks article.
My aim this week was to give you the options for consideration when buying racks for your bikes and car and also making sure that your bicycles are transported in a compliant manner. You should however confirm the relevant road regulations in respect of your location as I am not a legal advisor and cannot make comment in respect of your particular vehicle. This is just a general article in respect of bike racks and you will need to either visit the links I have provided below or if you are overseas visit your relevant road and transport authority.
Lets look at the rough requirements in respect of bike racks by each State around Australia.
Roads Authority Website in VIC – VicRoads
Basically in Victoria you need to comply with bike rack laws. These are found and clearly explained on the VicRoads website. From my reading you need to have a clearly legible number plate that can be read from a distance of at least 20 meters AND illuminated at night (illumination kits can be obtained from bicycle shops). When you are transporting bikes you need to display a number plate and that its not obscured. When you are not transporting bikes you can be fined for not removing the racks. Another important thing to note is that stoplights, tail lights and vehicle indicators must not be obscured by either the bicycle racks or the bikes themselves. The last thing you want is a tail ender with someone running up the rear of your vehicle as a result of not seeing your stop lights or turning indicators.
Bike racks fitted to your tow bar or attached to the boot of the car were provided as examples on the VicRoads website.
There is a fee to order a bike rack number plate (252mm x 96mm). At the time of writing VicRoads charged $31.40 and these plates will usually take around 14 days to deliver.
You can download a VicRoads order form for a bicycle rack number plate.
NEW SOUTH WALES (NSW)
Roads Authority Website in NSW – RMS
The New South Wales police have always been hot on obscured number plates and like police in most states in Australia they crack down on bicycle racks on vehicles obscuring both stop lights, indicators as well as obscure number plates.
There are Australian Bicycle forums you can check also if you have detailed questions to ask about bicycle racks and transporting bikes on cars in your area. Some of these guys will be more up to date with the problems being encountered with police being hot on bike transportation.
The Roads and Maritime Authority which looks after the points to do with bicycle racks on cars also states like VicRoads above that if the bikes or racks obscure the rear number plate of the vehicle, then the car must be fitted with an “auxiliary” number plate. This auxiliary number plate shows the same number/lettering combo as your cars plates do and come in black character on white background. The auxiliary plates are ordered through the myplates website or in person at an RMS service centre. Just remember also that if you cancel the registration on your vehicle that you may also have to hand back the auxiliary plates when you hand the cars plates in as its an offence in NSW to keep number plates. At the time of writing a bike rack number plate in New South Wales cost $40.
SOUTH AUSTRALIA (SA)
Roads Authority Website in SA – Dept of Planning, Transport & Infrastructure
Again like Victoria and New South Wales you need to purchase a bike rack number plate as the bicycle will obscure the bike rack. These plates have the same registration number as your vehicle and cannot be interchanged on other vehicles. In South Australia you can either take the rear number plate off the vehicle and attach it to the bike rack OR you can display a bicycle rack number plate on the bicycle rack itself – but, you cannot display a standard vehicle number plate on the rear of the motor vehicle AND on the bicycle rack or make up some homemade designed number plate. Home made plates are clearly not allowed.
Illumination of the number plates – You have to clearly illuminate the license plates during sunset and sunrise and periods when visibility is poor., this is a white light and the plates numbers again like other states have a visibility distance of 20 meters. Additional brake lights must be added where the vehicles brake lights are not visible from a distance of 200 meters. It is interesting that other roads transport authority websites didn’t stipulate the distance measurement of visibility of brake lights regardless, don’t risk not having clear signals on your vehicle not be showing which is extremely dangerous.
In South Australia bike rack plates are ordered through Ezyplates. These 252mm x 98mm plates with black lettering and white background cost a once off fee of $22 making them much cheaper than other states like Victoria and New South Wales.
Roads Authority Website in QLD – Queensland Transport office
Like all states, when driving on the roads they must be fitted with official number plates and be visible. Again, Queensland Transport have a 20 meter visibility law like the other states. The plates are normally issued with a 10 year guarantee against material and worker faults.
Queenslander’s refer to bike number plates as “accessory plates” and these accessory plates (unlike NSW which call them auxiliary plates) are attached to the bike rack. Note there was a mention in respect of other situations that if nothing is being transported then the racks will have to be removed. Please check this as I wouldn’t want you getting a fine for having racks on the vehicle and not carrying bikes at the time of driving which is actually an offence in some other states as referred above or NSW. Ordering bike plates is simple on the government website. The damage bill in Queensland for an accessory plate is $44.40 at the time of writing which is higher than South Australia, Victoria and slightly higher than NSW’s cost to acquire a second plate for the racks.
Roads Authority Website in Canberra – ACT road transport authority
Bike rack legislation is governed in Canberra under the Road Transport (Vehicle Registration) Act 1999.
Bicycle racks CAN ONLY be attached to a vehicle for the purpose of transporting bikes. You can buy bike rack plates and they are slightly smaller than the standard provided car number plates. You cannot interchange these plates with other vehicles. You can buy these bike rack plates through Canberra Connect Shopfront. It appears that the price of a plate for a bike rack is $37.80 but it was difficult at the time of writing to confirm what the “remake of plate, Miscellaneous fees” as linked under the bike rack information page online was referring to as there were many other costs involved including a higher charge for plastic plates over the provision of a tin plate.
NORTHERN TERRITORY (NT)
The link above is a link to a bulletin on Bicycle carry racks in the Northern Territory. The NT was one of the few state road authorities to also mention not only boot or tow bar racks (rear mounted) but also roof mounted roof racks in the carrying of bikes. As I will develop this article you will see the different designs of racks for transporting bikes on your car.
You might also be interested in reading the cycling section of the MVR website for the northern territory.
The website for the Northern Territory Roads Authority was actually a little unclear on where to obtain a bike plate and how much it cost and I would still be interested to find out how much a bike plate in the NT costs?
Roads Authority Website in TAS
You can download an application form to apply for a bike rack plate in Tasmania and these take 4 to 6 weeks to manufacture unlike some other states that can deliver in 14 days. The ordering section is Service Tasmania shop.
The fees at the time of writing was $17.02 for a bike plate which makes it the cheapest cost for a bicycle rack plate in Australia being half the cost of Queensland or New South Wales.
WESTERN AUSTRALIA (WA)
Roads Authority Website in WA – Department of Transport
If you are in Western Australia there are a number of bike related forums not just on Facebook. Its a bit sketchy as to what the rules are in respect of bike racks in Western Australia and bike plate auxiliary plates. Some have said there’s no such thing as a bike rack plate and to be safe to transport the vehicle in the back of the car or use roof mounted racks. Please be aware when reading forums that its subject to peoples own personal opinions and I have seen people even suggesting to photocopy and tape to the bicycle the licence plate. Based on review of every states roads authorities website I would be very very careful about doing this. Some of the suggestions on bike forums in respect to bicycle transportation and displaying a bike auxiliary plate have been somewhat unbelievable and you could end up copping a fine as a result of someones “advice”.
A State Plate Fee – Ordinary type at the time of writing was $24.00.
There appears just as a cursory look at the time of writing no actual accessory plate for bicycles. I will update as soon as I find out more on this from the Transport Department but digging around on a few of the bicycle riders forums also came up with a similar conclusion that there are no bike rack specific accessory plates issued in Western Australia. The list of plates and images provided on the Departments website don’t depict any bike rack plates.
Important Points regardless of where you are:
- Tasmania is the cheapest state to buy a bicycle rack number plate.
- Bike rack plates are important to buy
- Bike rack plates cost under $50 in all states
- You have to hand back your bike rack plate if you deregister your vehicle
- You may be fined if you are driving with empty racks ie. Driving without transporting bikes but have the rack still on the vehicle. You need to be transporting a bike or else NO BIKE, NO RACKS.
- Roads authority websites have lots of good information about the topic.
- Remember not to obscure the brakes and indicators.
- You need to illuminate the bike plates for poor light conditions.
- Anything other than a roads authority plate mounted on your bike rack is illegal eg. Photocopying your licence plate and taping it to the bike, a hand painted sign etc are NO NO’s.
- Know your states “visibility” distances, not just reading plates but the brake lights and indicators.
- Always keep the number plates free of dirt and grime so they can be read clearly from 20 meters.
- Ensure you don’t overload or excessively project bikes (some racks can hold up to 4 bicycles) behind the rear of your car.
Bike Rack Designs
So your probably considering buying bike racks and what the different designs there are available on the market. Theres generally two styles (outside of throwing the car in the back) which are rear mounted (on the boot or off the tow bar – as single, two and up to 4 bikes (but be careful of overloading and obscuring the break and indicators), as well, there are roof mounted roof racks to transport bicycles.
Buying Bike Racks Online.
Autobarn and Supercheap Auto are two well know stores in Australia.
You can buy bicycle racks online from companies like Autobarn (or the Autobarn store). Autobarn bike racks are displayed on their website and they are generally rear mounted, tow bar style bike racks suitable for 1 or 2 bicycles. The problem with the Autobarn website is that the prices aren’t listed so they are good for nothing for comparing on price. Absolutely limited information is on the autobarn website apart from a photo, a brief description and a SKU product code. Autobarn’s selection of racks is rather limited too and it might be easier to make a call to the local Autobarn store and go down and look yourself.
Another company well known in the market is Supercheap Auto and at least they stock a list of bicycle racks on their website WITH PRICES unlike Autobarns bike rack listings.
Supercheap has a combo of offerings including rear mounted and roof mounted bike racks for cars. Supercheap Auto online stock the Stamfred brand of racks for the rear mounted versions and these are around ninety nine bucks upwards. The Prorack cycle holder at $219 is a fork mounted system and fits on the roof (a roof rack design) but may be a hassle for some riders and this Prorack brand only takes one bicycle it appears on the description and photograph.
You might want to check out the offerings on Amazon.com for which we advertise on an affiliate commission basis. You can view the following racks here:
Rear mounted racks – Check the listings out here [Amazon.com Aff. Link]
Roof racks – Check the listings out here [Amazon.com Aff. Link]
Remember the prices are based on US dollars. The other thing is some listings are quoted as “not shippable to Australia”. Don’t worry, we wrote an article about getting around this restriction on shipping to Australia with Amazon.com and using services such as Australia Posts shipping service to make getting Amazon.com products a synch.