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Lisa Portelli, M.P.A., Bike/Walk Central Florida, Past Chair

Lisa Portelli is the City of Orlando’s Senior Advisor to the Mayor for Homelessness and Social Services.  She has more than 30 years of experience working with vulnerable populations, including time as the Executive Director of the I.M. Sulzbacher Center for the Homeless in Jacksonville, the Vice President for Housing for the Coalition for the Homeless of Central Florida.  Most recently she was a Program Director for the Winter Park Health Foundation from 2002-18 doing collective impact work in Eatonville Florida to improve community health and design. In spring of 2014, she became an adjunct instructor at the University of Central Florida and teaches courses in the Masters in Non-Profit Management Programs.

Portelli is a founding board member of Bike Walk Central Florida which was Central Florida’s first cycling and pedestrian advocacy organization developing scalable programs demonstrated to improve safety on the roads.

Portelli has a degree in journalism from the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh and a Master’s in Public Administration from the University of Central Florida. She is a devoted cyclist and Ironman Triathlete who recently road her bicycle across America.

How did you get started with Bike/Walk Central Florida?
Ten years ago, I worked with an influential group of people to help start Bike/Walk Central Florida because we wanted to promote civility on our roads.   “Slow down, be careful and watch out for each other” became our message as we worked to make the roads safer for all users, especially those who are vulnerable – first responders, cyclists, runners and pedestrians.

Are you a biker or a walker?
I’m 4-time Ironman triathlete that simply enjoys being active outdoors – whether it’s for transportation, exercise or just for fun. I ride 200 miles a week, commute to work on bicycle and run/walk for fun.

Earliest memory of biking or walking?
When I was 5 years old, my little red two-wheeler set me free!  We were allowed at that age to ride to school and the public pool.

What is the most notable achievement thus far toward safer streets in Central Florida?
Best Foot Forward has changed driver behavior!  We know it because we measure the yield rates—how many drivers are yielding the right-of-way to pedestrians.  Equally as important, we have become the voice for the vulnerable road user, especially those who are bicycling for transportation and don’t have time to advocate for safe infrastructure to help with their commute.

If you could change one road in Orlando to better accommodate walkers and bikers, which would it be?
It is ALWAYS one road at a time isn’t it?   In Orlando, I’d change Corrine Drive; in Winter Park, it’s Fairbanks/Aloma. We have a serious shortage of east/west connectors that make the use of SunRail unrealistic for most people who need protected infrastructure to feel comfortable riding.

In 15 years, what does this region look like?
More and more trails!  That is the solution – it will take 50 years to evolve our roads away from their car-centric nature, but trails are comfortable for everyone.