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E-MTB's

 

E-BIKES

E-bikes designed for off-road use (aka E-MTB’s) are a relatively new phenomenon and both public and private land managers are implementing and adjusting their access policies for this activity.

The Washington state vehicle code, ratified by the legislature in February 2018 in SB 6434:

  1. Defines what an e-bike is in Washington State, and establishes a regulatory framework for their use.

  2. Classifies an e-bike as a special class of bicycle, as long as the power output is no more than 750 watts, it has a saddle, includes fully operative pedals, and meets the following other class restrictions:

    • Class 1: E-assist only while pedaling, with a maximum speed of 20 mph.

    • Class 2: Can be propelled solely by the motor, with a maximum speed of 20 mph.

    • Class 3: E-assist only while pedaling, with a maximum speed of 28 mph, and has a speedometer.

  3. Generally disallows e-bikes on designated non-motorized natural surface trails, including singletrack, unless specifically authorized by the land manager.

  4. Requires prominent labeling for all e-bikes containing the Classification Number, Top Assisted Speed, and Motor Wattage.

Galbraith Mountain:
The recreation easement between the City of Bellingham and Galbraith Tree Farm (GTF) names the WMBC as the recreation manager, however, the WMBC does not set policy for access. Since the first Recreational Use Agreement on Galbraith in 2002, the land manager’s policy has always been non-motorized access. 

 

Currently, neither the City or GTF are enforcing e-mtb use on the mountain, however we have been monitoring for any negligent use or potential conflicts.  We are in discussion with the City's attorney regarding e-mtb access (both current and future) and what that will look like on Galbraith.  We have proposed a near-term solution of permitting riders with disabilities full trail access on e-mtb's and a potential pilot project for other e-mtb use in the future.

 

Currently E-MTB’s can be used off-highway in the following places in Whatcom and Skagit counties:

  • Larrabee State Park  singletrack where analog bikes are already allowed.

  • Canyon Ridge motorized trail (US Forest Service)

  • Motorized access roads that are open to the public on DNR land.

  • Walker Valley OHV Area

  • North Mountain in Darrington (Snohomish County)

Some open questions that affect current and future policy decisions about E-MTB access are:

  • How will the current emerging E-MTB technology change over the next few years?

  • Will other trail user groups be more or less inclined to support human-powered mountain bike access on trails due to increased E-MTB access?

  • How will E-MTB power activation and speed limits be enforced?

  • Will E-MTB’s increased speeds lead to more user-group conflicts?

  • Will the WMBC advocate for E-MTB access?  If not, who will represent E-MTB users?

The WMBC continues to closely monitor the emerging E-MTB technology and its use across the country and around the world. We will work with local land managers on E-MTB policy to ensure it makes sense for all trail users.

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Photography by Eric Mickelson & Eric Ashley