New traffic signs went up in Wauseon nearly a month ago, but how to obey them might have proven a bit confusing for some motorists.
Placed on Shoop Avenue at the crosswalk of the city’s walking and bicycle trail, four yield signs – two with flashing lights – face oncoming traffic on either side. And while they convey the message to look carefully for trail users before proceeding, drivers don’t have to stop at the signs if the crosswalk isn’t being used.
“If there’s a pedestrian in the crosswalk, you have to yield,” Police Chief Keith Torbet said. “We put (the signs) up there because we’ve had several close calls.”
The crosswalk across Shoop Avenue at the trail has existed since the path opened but some drivers don’t seem to notice, Torbet said. He added, “I’ve seen several times where the pedestrian actually jumped back where they almost got hit.”
Torbet said it’s a matter of judgment and common sense. If there are walkers or bicyclists on the Shoop Avenue crosswalk or about to enter it, vehicles must yield to them. Failing to do so is a minor misdemeanor moving offense, with a fine of up to $150. A second offense within a year is a fourth-degree misdemeanor with up to a $250 fine and a possible 30 days in jail.
The signs were requested by concerned members of the Wauseon Lions Club, who offered to raise money for their purchase. However, the $5,000 price tag was approved by the city’s Finance Committee and paid through the city’s general fund. The signs were installed by the Public Works Department.
“They’re just strictly to alert traffic that the trail’s there,” Public Service Director Dennis Richardson said. “It doesn’t mean you’re obligated to stop (completely). It’s not a traffic regulation type sign, it’s a caution type sign.”
Beginning next summer, a stop sign will be placed on Oak Street, at the city pool entrance. The large, illustrated yellow sign will be used only during the pool’s hours of operation, then removed. The stop sign only has to be obeyed if there are pedestrians in a crosswalk to be added.
The sign also was paid for through the city’s general fund. Because it’s made for temporary use it will not have flashing lights. But motorists who disobey it will be fined.
Richardson said the crosswalk won’t be added until after the city pool closes this season. Current hours of operation are Monday to Thursday, 4-8 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday, 1-8 p.m; and closed on Friday. The pool will close for the season Thursday, Sept. 13.
Reach David J. Coehrs at 419-335-2010.