bike rack“Ask a Trooper” is a reader-directed, bi-monthly publication that appears in 30 newspapers across western Iowa.  Submit your question to your local editor, or directly to Trooper Kurtz at  Follow the Iowa State Patrol in northwest Iowa @TrooperKurtz and

Topic:  Bike Racks

Q: During a driving vacation out west, I noticed the popularity of bumper-attached bicycle and luggage racks.  Are there any rules with these?

A:   I don’t want to become too optimistic, but questions like this tell me that spring and warmer weather may be here to stay.  Biking enthusiasts are itching to get out on the roads and school children are already 2 wheeling it to school.  Before long you will start to see the vacation traffic picking up on the road.  The only illness that everyone wants to get has set in…spring fever.

The popularity of bicycling continues to grow across the nation.  Here in Iowa we are proud to boast the premier amateur cycling event in the nation, and some would argue the world…RAGBRAI.  With only 129 days left to the start date, cycle traffic will undoubtedly be picking up on our highways.  This increase will require cyclists to transport their investment in the safest way possible.

Rear and top mounted bike/luggage racks are a good way to accomplish this when done the right way.  Iowa law specifies the maximum dimensions of cargo protruding from a vehicle in the following areas…

  • Total length of a passenger vehicle and cargo extending to the REAR is 41 feet (321.457). If that load is 4 feet beyond the rear bumper it must have a red flag (16 square inches) attached to it during the day and a red light marking it at night (321.394).
  • Total height of a passenger vehicle, including cargo is 13 feet, 6 inches.
  • Cargo may not extend beyond the fender line on the driver’s side of the vehicle (321.455).
  • Cargo may extend up to 6 inches beyond the fender line on the passenger’s side (321.455).

When using these cargo options, remember not to cover your brake lights and turn signals.  Brake lights that can’t be seen are essentially burned out.

If part of your spring fever treatment is cycling, make sure to transport your investment the proper way.  On behalf of the Iowa State Patrol, enjoy the warm weather!

Trooper Vince Kurtz #495
Iowa State Patrol Public Relations
Twitter @TrooperKurtz

State Patrol Logo