Belfast has one of the lowest proportions of women cycling in the UK, a charity said.

Four fifths said they never used the bicycle for local journeys, and almost three times as many men take part.

Sustrans Northern Ireland director Gordon Clarke said it was important to create safer routes to school for those with childcare responsibilities.

“This report reinforces the need for major investment in cycling networks across all our towns and cities if we want more women and people in general to cycle.”

A survey, Women: reducing the gender gap, was published by the walking and cycling charity and details travel habits, views and attitudes towards cycling.

The report, part of the Bike Life project, was based on an ICM independent survey of over 7,700 residents living in Belfast, Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Newcastle and Greater Manchester.

Belfast has the second lowest percentage of women who cycle across the seven cities surveyed. Almost three times as many men cycle as women, the research showed.

A new greenway has been opened at the Connswater River.

Mr Clarke said perceived safety was an important factor in encouraging women to take to two wheels.

In Belfast, just 29% thought safety was good, he added.

The survey also revealed that 81% in Belfast supported building more protected cycle lanes – even if this means less space for other road traffic.

Mr Clarke added: “There’s a huge variation in active travel [walking & cycling] spending in cities across the UK.

“Recently Scotland doubled investment in cycling to £15 per head. Across the other cities, funding ranges from £6 in Belfast to up to £25 per head in Bristol.”

The report was released during Bike Week.

Several activities are taking place in Northern Ireland this week, culminating in a new family-friendly cycling festival Belcycle this Saturday.

It will be held in CS Lewis Square in east Belfast and aims to normalise cycling as an everyday mode of transport.