A TASK anyone can do is often described as "as easy as riding a bike", and 80 per cent of children in Scotland know how to cycle.

So when do we stop knowing how to do it? Only a quarter of adults ride bikes, and in the same survey for Cycling Scotland more than half said "I am not the kind of person who rides a bike" while only 22 per cent said they knew how to ride and were confident cycling.

The research by the national cycling charity aimed to discover why people do and don't cycle in Scotland.

It found that while a quarter of the population cycle at least occasionally, women, older people and those on lower incomes are less likely to do so.

While the charity said it was encouraging so many children cycle, most adults don't and there is a sizeable hard core who refuse to even consider it. Two thirds (66 per cent) said rated the chances of them cycling more in the next two to three years from unlikely to extremely unlikely. This rose to 71 per cent when people were asked if they would consider cycling for most regular journeys.

Katharine Brough, head of behaviour change at Cycling Scotland, said it was the first time the organisation had looked in depth at what puts people off getting on their bikes: from a preference for car journeys, to safety considerations and lifestyle choices – 55 per cent of respondents simply said they were not the kind of person who rides a bike.

Ms Brough said: "A significant number of respondents either do not know how to cycle or do not feel fit enough.

"Close to two-thirds of non-cyclists were discouraged from taking up cycling as they felt they didn’t fit their image of a cyclist and didn’t know anyone who cycled. The cost of buying a bike can also be a barrier."

More than 62 per cent of parents said their children (aged 6-15) cycled at least once a week, she added. "This is a big contrast to the number of adult cyclists and we are keen to explore when, where and crucially why this drop-off occurs."

She said the study would be used to develop programmes to help more people take up cycling as a viable form of transport and exercise.

"This research begins a longer-term study into attitudes to cycling in Scotland. It will help us to develop our programmes and work in partnership with others to support parents, students, commuters, young and older people to access the lifelong benefits of cycling,” she said..

The report also found that regular cyclists currently tend to come from the highest socio-economic background. While the survey found cycling was widely seen as a healthy transport option and a better choice for the environment, and 62% agreed that Scotland would be a better place if more people cycled 41 per cent said it wasn't practical.

Asked for changes which would make them consider saddling up, non-cyclists said having fewer vehicles on the roads, more cycle lanes or traffic-free routes would make a difference.

More than 1000 people were interviewed for the study which will influence Cycling Scotland's future work. The successful Bikeability Scotland programme works in schools to teach primary pupils confidence and safety.

However one of its key goals is to encourage an enthusiasm for cycling that young people will carry on into adulthood.

Ms Brough added: "We already work with 42% of primary schools teaching bike confidence and safety through our Bikeability Scotland programme and we support a huge range of other activities designed to encourage people across Scotland to return to cycling or take it up as a viable form of transport and exercise.”

A bill currently under consideration at the Scottish Parliament could bring in a speed limit of 20mph on most Scottish streets. When Green MSP Mark Ruskell launched his Safer Streets member’s Bill, Green MSP Mark Ruskell said he wanted to see a “social and cultural change” in attitudes towards road safety.