Whatcom Mountain Bike Coalition Rider Survey

Benefits studied:
Uses studied:
Place: Whatcom County


This study found that the Galbraith Mountain mountain bike trail system is a valuable asset for local residents, many of whom moved to the area or stay in the area because of the trails, and for visitors, who visit frequently and spend money at local businesses. While the club building the trails is developing a destination-worthy trail system, they are also providing significant benefits for the local cycling community.


This study provides examples of the types of questions to ask users in a trail impact survey, and demonstrates that trails can influence where residents choose to live and whether they stay in the community. This study used an online survey disseminated through trail clubs and social media, and likely attracted very avid respondents. The results from this study should be interpreted with this in mind, and should be applied to cyclists and not the general population.


This study was based in Whatcom County, Washington, population 203,211 in 2013, in northwestern Washington. The trail system of focus is within cycling distance of Bellingham, which had a population of 81,576 in 2013.

Trail Type

This study focused on the Galbraith Mountain trail system, which has 50 miles of trails. The trails are opened to all non-motorized uses but they are built and maintained by the local cycling club and therefore used mostly by mountain bikers.


The purpose of the study is to better understand the demographics of trail users, their attitudes about the trails, and how much trail use comes from tourists. The results may be useful in developing marketing materials, identifying the types of trails most in demand, or obtaining funding from local agencies and businesses. This study was conducted by the Whatcom Mountain Bike Coalition.


  • Although nearly all respondents were mountain bikers (95% of respondents), many also use the trails for other activities like trail running (28%) and hiking (17%).
  • Over half of respondents use the trail system at least once per week, and 71 percent spend at least two hours per outing.
  • One-third of respondents live outside of the county. They tend to be more affluent than local trail users. More than half of these respondents spend at least $40 per trip at local businesses.
  • Ninety-five percent of long-time residents said that trails are important (15%) or very important (80%) to their decision to stay in the area.
  • Eighty percent of recent residents said that trail access close to their home was important (20%) or very important (60%) in their decision to relocate to the area.


The authors obtained data using an online survey, implemented over 10 weeks in 2014. Respondents were recruited using the sponsoring club’s email list and social media. The survey was also sent to the local trail running clubs. Respondents were asked questions regarding their trail use, preferred types of trails, skill level, and demographics. Respondents who lived outside the county were asked a separate set of questions regarding local expenditures. Local residents were asked questions about the importance of trails in daily life. There were 749 completed surveys; the response rate cannot be calculated from this survey method.


Whatcom Mountain Bike Coalition. 2014. 2014 WMBC Rider Survey.