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Already common, e-bikes get official OK on Galbraith Mountain in Bellingham

Council approves electric-bike use, more trail miles at popular recreation destination

Michael Rodriguez rides an electric mountain bike on a trail in Fairhaven on June 4. This Seattle Electric Bike is designed to provide varying levels of pedal assistance depending on what the rider selects.
Michael Rodriguez rides an electric mountain bike on a trail in Fairhaven in June 2023. This e-bike is designed to provide varying levels of pedal assistance, depending on what the rider selects. (Kyle Tubbs/Cascadia Daily News)
By Ralph Schwartz Local Government Reporter

The electric-bicycle revolution gained a victory on Monday, Feb. 26, when the power-assisted bikes were officially allowed on Galbraith Mountain.

In addition to the rule change, the Bellingham City Council voted unanimously Monday to allow the trail system on Galbraith to expand, from a maximum of 65 miles to 85 miles — although the WMBC website already describes the trail system as “over 70 miles of singletrack that winds through 3,000 acres overlooking the city and Bellingham Bay.”

Electric bikes were initially prohibited when the mountain was preserved for recreational use in 2018, but they have seen a massive growth in popularity since then. The rule change acknowledges that e-bike use is already commonplace on the mountain, city Parks and Recreation Director Nicole Oliver said.

“E-bikes are taking over Galbraith Mountain,” Oliver said at a Monday afternoon council meeting. “We’re really just recognizing the reality, and (the) accessibility for a lot of people who can’t get up there if it wasn’t for e-bikes.”

Now traditional bicyclists, horseback riders, hikers and joggers will share the trails with Class 1 e-bikes, which Whatcom Mountain Bike Coalition Executive Director Eric Brown described as the slowest classification of power-assisted bicycle.

Brown told council at the afternoon meeting that Class 1 e-bikes are capped at 20 mph with pedal-assist only and without the throttle found on traditional dirt motorbikes.

“So we’re not going to be seeing dirt bikes and such up on Galbraith Mountain,” council member Lisa Anderson said before the final vote Monday night. “You’re going to be able to see older people like me be able to use their e-bike to kind of get up, where perhaps there might be limitations otherwise.”

The increase to as many as 85 trail miles was allowed, Brown said, after managers at Galbraith Tree Farm decided the current level of recreational use on the mountain wasn’t impacting the company’s logging business. Galbraith Tree Farm is managed by Rob Janicki, part of the Janicki Logging Co. family based in Sedro-Woolley.

“It’s going to allow us to do some building out into a couple different areas on the mountain,” Brown said. “Not only for mountain bike, but for multi-use — hiking, dog walking, better connectors, that sort of thing.”


This story was updated at 12:32 p.m. Feb. 27 to clarify that Galbraith Mountain was preserved for mountain biking and other recreational uses in 2018.

Ralph Schwartz is CDN’s local government reporter; reach him at ralphschwartz@cascadiadaily.com; 360-922-3090 ext. 107.

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