photo: A. Heddergott / TUM

Plan4Better: Urban Planning Tool for Bike Paths and Sidewalks

How can people in cities be motivated to drive less? Plan4Better has developed software meant to plan cities so that all daily destinations can be reached by bike or foot within 15 minutes. The spin-off of the Technical University of Munich (TUM) even won the Munich Innovation Award from the city for their concept.

Building a pedestrian bridge over a highway, closing a post office or opening a supermarket: Every change made to infrastructure has an impact on residents’ mobility behavior. Plan4Better co-founder Elias Pajares said:

“Planners are trying more and more to encourage active mobility, meaning foot and bike traffic. And that obviously requires sidewalks and bike paths. But people also need to be able to quickly reach their daily destinations. Ideally, residents should be able to reach all key facilities for their daily needs within 15 minutes by foot or bike.”

A helpful tool for urban planners

Based on this idea, Pajares founded the startup Plan4Better together with Ulrike Jehle, who like Pajares, also conducts research at the Chair of Urban Structure and Transport Planning at TUM. With their company, the environmental engineers want to put a planning tool on the market that includes a wealth of information such as population density, space utilization, topography, street routes, sidewalks and bike paths as well as points of interest, like supermarkets.

“With this tool, urban planners can develop scenarios and test their effects based on facts,”

explained Ulrike Jehle.

The prototype for the new software was developed in a research project at TUM. A part of the project, which has since been completed, was a field test: Planners from Munich and the surrounding area were able to create different scenarios and immediately see the impact that individual decisions would have on foot and bike traffic.

Jehle and Pajares are now developing their software further in collaboration with geodetic engineer Majk Shkurti, the third member of the founding team. The trio is supported by a small team of working students as well as freelance staff.

No limits for the planning tool

In the months ahead, the team wants to put a subscription model on the market that makes it possible to access the geodata of German cities. With the interactive software, planners can then simulate changes to the infrastructure and retrieve data from any address about how large the area is that residents can reach by foot or bike within 15 minutes

“These features quickly reveal where things such as shops, schools or bike paths are missing,”

explained Pajares.

In the next step, the founders are planning to include the geodata from the entire German-speaking region – including Switzerland and Austria – in their database.

“There are basically no limits to the planning tool,”

said Jehle.