Devoted Cyclist Trades Car for Bike

Lisa photos 012Four mornings a week, Lisa Portelli, Winter Park Health Foundation program director and devoted cyclist, throws a backpack over her shoulders, and rides her bike to her office and meetings.

It’s part of a personal goal to ditch her car and become a regular bike commuter.

“I wanted to prove to myself that I could do this, even in Florida’s hot, muggy summer months, and still walk into a meeting professionally dressed,” she said.

So far, so good.

She quickly realized that for meetings within 8-10 miles of her office, the bike ride is often faster than driving a car because she doesn’t get stuck in Central Florida traffic jams and she doesn’t have to spend time parking.

Another bike-related bonus– Ms. Portelli said she feels she listens better, is more present, and her memory has improved. She credits these improvements with taking the time to reflect before and after the meetings on her bicycle instead of jumping into her car and immediately beginning to return phone calls, thus moving on to the next thing on her to-do list.

It’s not easy to trade four wheels for two, but Ms. Portelli has advice for those who would like to try:

  • Take a bike-safety class, such as Cycling Savvy, if you’re new to riding on Central Florida roads.
  • Ride the route on the weekend to plan out the safest route and to become familiar with the roads before venturing out in rush hour traffic.

In addition to planning out routes, Ms. Portelli said it’s important to plan for the post-ride primping.

She uses a relatively small, professional backpack and packs a change of clothes and beauty supplies. She includes either a light-weight wrinkle-free dress or slacks, and professional-looking sandals that she can ride in but also complete a work outfit.

“I have mastered the art of transitioning from bike commuter apparel to professional dress in less than 10 minutes,” she said. She rides make-up free, wipes down with an astringent, applies powder and lipstick, and uses a portable blow dryer to fix her curly hair when she arrives at a destination.

In spite of preparation, the road has not always been smooth. She now can laugh at the lessons learned, such as it’s not a good idea to put your backpack down in a sink that has sensor-activated water faucets. If you do, you’ll be forced to blow dry your dress as well as your hair.

For regular bikers, Ms. Portelli said it is easier to keep everything packed up, rather than switching between a briefcase and a backpack. Instead of a briefcase, she uses her backpack to hold an iPad for taking notes and places any documents or sensitive items in a 2-gallon Ziploc bag.

The weather also is a key consideration. Before leaving for and during a meeting, she watches the weather, checking the Weather Channel app. Dark clouds? If time allots, she will ride home to get her car or stay at the meeting location and work while waiting for the storm to pass.

“The beauty of Central Florida weather is 9 times out of 10, it’s finished raining before I get out of meetings,” she said.

So next time you spot Ms. Portelli, wearing her backpack and riding her bike in work sandals, wave and think – if she can I do it, so can I.  Give it a try!