CYCLISTS and other road users are being urged to put safety first as more people than ever before take to their bikes ahead of the visit of the Tour De France.

The number of cyclists on the county's roads has increased markedly with just days to go before the Grand Depart visits the region.

Last year saw a 60 per cent increase in fatalities with 51 people having died on the county's roads, while there was also an increase in the number of cyclists killed and injured.

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The message was highlighted during the World Naked Bike Ride in York at the weekend and was echoed by the road safety partnership 95 Alive, which has included cycles on billboards alongside motorbikes to warn drivers to be on the alert.

Stuart Price, of the Dales Biking Centre, near Reeth, said: “There are so many more cyclists around it's unbelievable. It’s always an issue. Cyclists need to be aware of cars, and drivers need to understand when and how to overtake. If it means eight extra seconds of sitting behind a bike, that’s better than putting a life at risk.”

John Taylorson, organiser of the Great Yorkshire Bike Ride, a charity event which brought 1,700 cyclists through North Yorkshire at the weekend, said officials have to work with police and local authorities.

“It’s very dangerous to ignore the need for proper safety procedures," he said. "The effect of the tour here has been phenomenal, but there has been criticism over people cashing in. People need to make sure, especially with some of these pop-up events, that they are done properly with safety in mind and not just to make money."

Elise Robinson, of the Naked Bike Ride, a celebration of cycling and a protest against car culture, said: "I think roads for cyclists can be dangerous and it’s a good way of getting the message across, well it’s definitely not going to go unnoticed.”

Rider Mike Smith added: "If my plucking up the courage to go naked and cycle brings enough awareness that one life is saved, then I’m happy to be brave.”

Tim Madgwick, deputy Chief Constable of North Yorkshire Police, urged riders to make themselves seen.

"We are urging drivers, motorcyclists and cyclists to pay attention, not only to their own behaviour, but make themselves alert to other people using the roads," he said. "Vulnerable road users such as cyclists and motorcyclist should ensure they have the most appropriate protective and visible clothing and equipment.”

While Councillor Gareth Dadd, executive member for North Yorkshire Highways, added: "The more experienced riders have a role in looking out for the less experienced, less confident and perhaps less fit riders. Cycles need to be in good condition with recently checked brakes and tyres.”