Dianna Ward’s smile is infectious. Her spirit open and welcoming. She’s got principled views, a warm heart and open arms. I’ve had the pleasure of knowing Dianna for a while, and our conversations together have made me grow and reflect. She’s the kind of person who can make friends with anyone and make waves of progress and change on any front, no matter the challenges.
Dianna and I recently took a bike tour of Charlotte’s Little Sugar Creek Greenway as we got together for this short interview. Read more about that experience and see Dianna’s tips for local cycling on page 11. But, here, get to know Dianna a little bit more in this edition of our “Our People” Q&A…
Dianna, 46, is executive director of Charlotte B-Cycle, a local non-profit bike sharing program. She’s also founder and owner of Charlotte NC Tours. Born in Albuquerque, N.M., she says her roots are in Mississippi and Memphis, and she moved to Charlotte in 2001, after living in Upstate New York, where she moved in 1995 after attending grad school at NC State. Our interview below is edited for brevity and clarity.
What brought you to Charlotte?
Before I moved here, I was living in Upstate New York. I was working in glass. I’m an applied mathematician. I was working alongside a bunch of glass scientists and geologists, creating glass for phones, TV, space program, beakers, plates, you name it. In 2001, I moved to Hickory to work for Corning. I lived there in a hotel for two months, but then I found Unity Fellowship Church Charlotte online, visited one week and decided I’m not living in Hickory. I’d lived in too many small towns. It was time to live in the big city.
You’re obviously a fan of cycling. Is it just a hobby or something more?
I’m actually a second-generation bicycle commuter. My dad used to commute to work on his bike. He’d say cycling isn’t just something you do for fun, it’s a way to get around. Since I’ve been in Charlotte, it’s been a major form of my transportation. I keep my car parked and go check on it every now and then. My partner, Carol, has even added cycling in as a part of her errand running, so even her car sits a lot now.
When did you meet Carol?
In 2008. In church. Church and Christianity is important to me, so it was important to find someone with whom I was equally yoked. Church was the place.
What’s your favorite neighborhood in Charlotte?
I live in Villa Heights. I had lived off Sunset Rd., in a house built by Harvey Gantt in the 1960s. The commute into town wasn’t the best. I’d often put my bike on the front of the bus and go down to Lasalle St., where there were some safer routes into town. I decided I wanted a lifestyle that included more walking and biking. My neighborhood is right in the middle of Plaza Midwood and Noda. Plaza Midwood is so diverse and places like Thomas St. Tavern are among my favorites. You go to places like that and you’ll have a little bit of everybody sitting at a table and I feel at home. I don’t want to hang out with all black people or all gay people. I want to hang out and socialize in a space that looks like America.
Definitely Mexican food. If I weren’t scared of being as big as a house, I’d eat it every day. I love, I crave Mexican food.
I love fall and spring. The temperatures are perfect for being outdoors. In the winter, you feel like you have to put on 10 layers of clothes to go where you want on a bike or during summer, it’s like, “Gah, can I take my skin off?!” It’s so hot in the summer. Spring and fall are also the most colorful months of the year. Fall, with the leaves changing, it’s like God’s color show that we get to sit back and be a part of.
Have you done any traveling? Have any iconic or memorable places you’ve seen?
I’ve done a lot of touring and traveling as an older adult. I started traveling and touring at 35, which was the impetus for me opening Charlotte NC Tours. I went to South Africa and it is just one of those paces you have to go to. It has the most beautiful landscape. It is gorgeous. But, it was also special being there. People would call me sister. You know I’m a big cry baby and a big softie. It was amazing. You touch African soil and it seems like this place that was once untouchable, so distant. But you know your roots are from there and you get there and instantly, with no blood ties, people automatically see you as one of them. It was overwhelming. It’s overwhelming now just thinking about it today.