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Q&A with Lisa Portelli

Lisa Portelli, the brains behind Bike 5 Cities, is an avid cyclist and a Bike/Walk Central Florida board member. Standing up for pedestrians and bikers, alike, Lisa created an event that shined a light on how crucial biker/walker-friendly infrastructure is in the community. She gives her input on the importance of people of all ages having numerous and safe places to walk, run, or ride their bikes.

What was Bike/Walk Central Florida’s goal with Bike 5 Cities?

Our goal was to create a regional bike-friendly route map and then have a ride to guide people looking for comfortable routes along these roads and trails. We knew the map would have gaps, but it would also be a valuable advocacy tool to continue our push for more bicycle-friendly infrastructure. The 5 Cities Ride, the bike-friendly route map, and the push for awareness of the effort was all to further a broader goal of encouraging our decision-makers to build more bike friendly roads with slow speeds and special infrastructure like cycle tracks and trails.

How would you describe the riders of the event?

The riders were brave. The majority of them were beginners, and many had never ridden 28 miles before the start of the event. A big group ride was new to most of them too, making it an incredibly risky adventure because group rides require skill.

How were children incorporated into the event?

Each city also hosted family-friendly rides and events along the path. Lots of families with children came to the city-hosted location looking to have fun on their bikes. They rode along with the adults on the trails or had police escorts through the neighborhood streets.

How were the bikers welcomed into each city? Did anything stand out about a certain place?

Each different community had a distinction. The elected officials in many cities came out to greet us, and it was great to show them the demand for comfortable cycling roads and trails. Every city welcomed us with cheers and celebration. For example, in Eatonville, the life of a young boy, Camari Dennison, was being remembered by teaching the children how to ride bikes safely and to always wear helmets. Police escorts were present in many cities to help get the large group through busy intersections.  

Sounds like the event was incredible. Did anything else stand out?

Some say the best indicator of success is when your idea is duplicated. On the day after our ride, the Florida Freewheelers, a local highly respected cycling club, conducted the ride on the same route again. A simple Facebook post brought out about a dozen riders to try out the beautiful route on central Florida’s bike-friendly roads. It is now a regular ride of the Florida Freewheelers on the second Sunday of each month at 8:00 a.m. starting in Mead Garden. It is safe to say that Bike 5 Cities was a great success!

Lisa Portelli’s recap on Bike 5 Cities can be found here.

For the Bike 5 Cities 28-mile route click here.

For individual maps for each of the cities, click here.

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