5 questions for Dianna Ward
Dianna Ward, who in 2009 co-founded Charlotte NC Tours, was named director of Charlotte B-Cycle, a bike-share program launched in July by Charlotte Center City Partners. (Photo: Glenn H. Burkins for Qcitymetro.com)
When Charlotte Center City Partners went looking for someone to lead the city’s new B-Cycle program, it didn’t take long before a search committee landed on Dianna Ward, who in 2009 co-founded Charlotte NC Tours.
Moira Quinn, a spokeswoman for Center City Partners, said the committee wanted a cycling advocate who was smart but also someone who possessed an entrepreneurial spirit.
“Dianna rose to the top,” Quinn said. “She was the obvious choice.”
Since she was named director of Charlotte B-Cycle in early June, Ward has been working to build momentum for the city’s new bike-share program. On a recent Thursday morning, she was seen zipping from one B-Cycle station to another on a blue 3-speed bike she reserves for herself.
At a B-Cycle station in South End, Ward spent several minutes rebooting the system after its computers crashed then helped a first-time user rent a bike before peddling off to her next destination.
During a recent interview, Ward talked about her lifelong love for bike riding and how she hopes the city’s B-Cycle program will spawn a new crop of bike enthusiasts in Charlotte. The Q&A below is based on that interview.
Qcitymetro: You’ve been a biker much of your life. How did you get started?
Ward: I’m going to jokingly say I’ve been doing this since I was a child. My father was a bike commuter. He had a bicycle, and it had a child seat and he rode it to work when we lived in El Passo, Texas. So bikes have always been a part of our existence. As soon as we could ride we had our own bikes… While I’ve ridden distance, I’ve never considered myself part of the real diehard group, but I would ride anywhere I needed to go. When I graduated college, I used my bike to get around. I didn’t own a car. I used my bike to get everywhere, any time day or night. Even now, I ride into work every day from Villa Heights.
Q. What excited you about this job?
W. When I hop on my bike, it’s a very euphoric situation. From the moment I plant myself on my bike…I am the most happy you will ever see me. There is something wonderful about being outdoors…looking up at the sky, looking around, meeting people, seeing things that nobody else gets to see. You can’t do that from a car. So what excited me about this job was, it was taking something that I’m passionate about and turning it into a job. Not many people get to say that the thing they love the most they actually get to work on.
Q. So what does this new job entail?
W. Most of my time will be occupied trying to spread the gospel. We’re going to be working to get people who may not have ever considered getting on a bike to get on a bike. That’s what my day will be consumed with. It also will be consumed with working with the cycling community that’s already here to spread the word. I’m just one person, and we have a small team, so the goal is to grow organically through people – I tell a friend and that friend tells two friends… We have a plan to constantly reach out to companies in our footprint. We’re going to be going to neighborhood associations, talking to them…We know that we have a little bit of an uphill battle convincing people that these bikes are for them.
Q. What keeps you up at night when you think about this job?
The good news is that I love this job so much that I think I’ve slept the best since I’ve taken the role. However, if you’re asking me what my biggest challenge is, the biggest challenge is going to be letting people know… If you go to Colorado or places like that, fitness is in the forefront of everything. Fitness here is primarily something you do at the gym after hours. So my biggest challenge is going to be convincing people in the middle of the day to use the bikes as they are intended to be used -- as part of a transportation system -- and not just a fitness system.
Q. During the free trial period last month, I understand you saw a diverse group of riders. How do you keep that going?
W. Yes, from a gender perspective it was about 50-50. From an ethnicity or race perspective, it looked like Charlotte – about 60 percent white, 29 percent African American and then some smaller numbers for Asian and other groups… It was very promising to see the diversity walking up to us. I would like to think that I’m pretty open minded, but I have to say that even I had preconceived notions about who would be walking up to us, and we had tons of diverse people walking up and wanting to use the bicycles… We need go out and make it look like the Charlotte community when we do our outreach. Our employees are diverse. Our marketing interns are going to be diverse, and we are going to go to diverse places, places where diverse people meet, and let them know about the system.
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