NEARLY a third of motorists want to see cyclists paying road tax if they use the public roads and 59% believe insurance should be compulsory for those using pedal power, according to new findings from independent market research firm Consumer Intelligence.

The study of public attitudes to cycling reveals a sharp divide between motorists and cyclists, despite confirmation of the UK’s continuing boom in bike use.

More than nine out of 10 motorists believe helmets should be compulsory for cyclists and 83% want cyclists to pass safety tests before taking to public roads.

Cyclists themselves largely agree on helmets and safety tests, with 75% backing compulsory helmets and 64% supporting safety tests but there are differences of opinion, with only 18% of cyclists willing to pay to use public roads and 37% happy to pay insurance.

Despite the divide, the survey shows that bike use is booming. Around half of people have a bicycle, with ownership higher among males (58% against 44% of women).

Bicycle ownership generally decreases as people get older, except for a spike in middle age, reinforcing images of middle-aged middle-class men in lycra (or MAMILs as they are sometimes known).

Fifty-seven per cent of 18 to 24-year-olds own a bike, 48% of 25 to 34-year-olds, 54% of 35 to 44-year-olds, 52% of 45 to 54-year-olds, before a sharp decline for 55 to 64-year-olds (43%) and 41% of 65 and overs.

Some 85% of bike owners use it primarily for leisure and one in 20 (five per cent) uses it primarily for work. A further one in 10 (10%) cyclists uses their bike equally for both purposes.

Just one in 10 cyclists (10%) use their bike on a daily basis and 28% use it weekly. One in five (21%) uses their bicycle about once a month, 12% every 2 to 3 months, 27% rarely and 2% leave it standing idle all the time.

David Black of Consumer Intelligence said: “The popularity of cycling is unprecedented at the moment, largely thanks to the success of Britain’s elite cyclists in recent years, but there is also a lot of animosity towards them in some areas from other road users, particularly in busy towns and cities.”

“There is still much more that the Government, local authorities and companies could do to encourage cycling while improving the level of safety for cyclists and other road users, from making roads more safe to improving road surfaces or creating more secure areas for bikes to be locked up.”

The British weather is the biggest obstacle to people using their bike more often, cited by 42% of cyclists. Safety is the biggest obstacle for 22% of cyclists, a lack of cycle lanes for 13% and poor quality road surfaces for 10%.

Another eight per cent cite a lack of places to secure their bike as the primary impediment to more regular cycling, and four per cent blame a lack of facilities, such as showers or lockers at their place of work. Nearly half of adults (46%) claim they would use bike hiring facilities if they existed in towns and cities they went to.

Despite a high degree of publicity over road deaths suffered by cyclists only half of them (51%) wear a helmet, with men less likely to wear them (47% compared to 55% of female cyclists).