Alison Cohen, Chief at CitiBikes, Leaves Post for TDG

By Jen Benepe, with reporting by Steve Faust

CI has confirmed the rumors swelling that Alison Cohen left the head position at Citibikes, a group managed by Alta Bicycle Share.

Her departure was confirmed last week by Toole Design Group where she will become their new Director of Bike Sharing Services. BikeShare media reported the move, noting that Cohen’s departure right before the final implementation of bike share in New York City and Boston had been completed, was “curious.”

But the New York City bike share program encountered many difficulties while under Cohen’s helm ship.

For one, it was implemented a whole year late, in 2013 rather than 2012. New York is just getting its bike share stations now, and the first founding members will not be able to use their memberships until May, and that will be on a limited basis with few stations actually installed.

The program also suffered serious delays before it secured a sponsor in the form of Citigroup. And word leaked that the company’s operating software was the subject of millions of dollars in lawsuits between the original publisher of the software, and its users.

Cohen’s background before becoming head of two of the largest and most complicated bike share systems was to have started bike share systems that were independently supported through taxes or other financial means: none had to be self-sufficient like New York’s.

In an interview with Ms. Cohen back in October 2011, we asked her about the elemental difference between the New York program, which was forced to make money based on the demands of the NYC department of transportation, and the other programs she had worked on that were subsidized or paid for by tax money.

“We did an estimate of revenues and operating costs and we wouldn’t be here if we didn’t think it would be a profitable operating system.,” she said then.

That might well turn out to be true, but in the process of trying to build a money-making bicycle transportation system, it may have cost Cohen her job.

Writes BikeShare media:

“Prior to adding Cohen to their team, the TDG had been primarily known for their feasibility studies and reports on bike share. According to Jennifer Toole, “With Alison on board we are excited to expand the variety of services we offer to clients throughout the U.S. and internationally.”

It is, thus, likely that we will see TDG begin to offer bike share operations services.

The timing of her departure from Alta is somewhat curious given that the company’s two biggest programs to date, New York and Chicago, are both expected to launch in the next couple of months. The Toole Design Group has issued this statement from Alison Cohen regarding her decision to join TDG: “As in any decision, there are many factors that went into it, both professional and personal, but it was time to move on. Working with Alta was undoubtedly a great experience, and I wish them and their city clients all the best in their ambitious launches this summer. I’m very excited about exploring an exciting future in bike share with Toole Design Group.”

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