NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — There’s a lot of growth happening at Vanderbilt University, but underneath the cranes is something not often open at construction sites: sidewalks.

“Now as we grow it’s our responsibility to ensure that there are safe and accessible ways for residents to navigate around town regardless of the amount of construction activity that may be going on,” said Mayor John Cooper.

Friday morning Mayor Cooper and Nashville’s Department of Transportation announced a new policy to keep sidewalks and bike lanes open during construction.

“All newly permitted construction projects can no longer obtain permits that obstruct you, the public’s right of way to our sidewalks, bike lanes and other public spaces for a period longer than seven days,” Mayor Cooper said.

The new policy goes into effect immediately and any construction project that exceeds the seven days will have to file a variance with NDOT.

“What we really want to do is start having the conversation upfront with anyone that wants to close our right of way so that we can be very thoughtful about it, again so that we maintain our right of way, keep all modes available for our neighbors and for our community and for our businesses,” said NDOT Director Diana Alarcon.

This decision comes just a week after Walk Bike Nashville delivered over 800 signatures, pushing to limit the use of bikeways and sidewalks for construction and private events.

Walk Bike Nashville says the decision is a step in the right direction.

“After delivering a petition with the signatures of nearly 900 Nashvillians who want to end sidewalk and bikeway closures, we are pleased to see some forward movement on this issue. The update to the multimodal access closure policy is a big step in the right direction,” said Executive Director Meredith Montgomery.

“This will have an immediate impact on extended sidewalk and bikeway closures that are related to construction. We recognize that short-term closures due to special events or smaller construction projects also hinder people who rely on active transportation, and we look forward to working with NDOT and the Mayor’s office to address these closures as well,” said Montgomery.

Cooper says this will be the start of more policy changes coming that impact multimodal pathways like special events, and allow residents the opportunity to continue freely walking and biking through Nashville.

“Even though we’re in a growing environment with lots of construction going on, we do not have to give up our public right away,” Mayor Cooper said.

All ongoing permitted work will now be under review by NDOT.

NDOT says they will also have more inspectors in the field to monitor if construction sites are following this new policy.