Well, I decided to retro my bike a bit. While at the Fringe I stopped in at Antiques & Funk at Main and Bannatyne. They have a box of 1982 bicycle licence plates in great condition for $3 ! I decided my bike needed one and added it. Looks nice and I am sure will have a few people scratching their heads.
By way of history Winnipeg issued plates from 1899 to 1982 (with the exception of 1907). A full series can be found at manitoba plates.com. Some of those are pretty nifty looking. I like 1917 and 1918 especially. Winnipeg wasn't the only municipality in Manitoba to do so - municipalities from Hartney to Churchill did the same.
Canplates.com explains that the reason for plates in North American cities were that bikes initially were a form of transportation similar to a coach or a car so they were licenced like everything else using the roadway. By the 50's and 60's car was becoming king and bicycles were increasingly relegated to a recreation or past time relegated to parks and trails. Eventually the issuing of plates droped off.
It doesn't appear that any jurisdictions still require plates except in some cases for commercial uses like pedicabs. I wonder with the increased use of bicycles as transportation whether we will see the need to licence bikes again ?