Handy Signage

For months, they’ve been refurbishing Pearl Alley, which runs between, and parallel to, Broad Street and Gay Street in downtown Columbus.  The goal is to spiff it up for the farmers’ market and other events that often are held there.  The alley has been pretty torn up as they’ve put in new light fixtures and probably made some less visible modifications, but it looks like they’re finally done — with work capped by this new sign at the Third Street entrance to the alley that I noticed for the first time on my walk home tonight.

It’s kind of a weird sign, but at least it’s got some symbolism going for it.  The hand is extending what appears to be a giant pearl — get it? — and the tattoo on the bicep of the arm reads “Lynn,” which just happens to be the name of the alley that intersects Pearl Alley halfway between High Street and Third Street.  Pretty clever!

The Pearl Alley project was a pain for those of us working in the neighborhood, but I’m glad they did it.  Pearl Alley is used frequently, and if you want to encourage people to come downtown and even move downtown, nice urban spaces have to be part of the attraction.  The Pearl Alley project has been another step in the process.

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The Demise Of The Internal Combustion Engine Is (Probably) Greatly Exaggerated

Volvo has announced that it plans to phase out production of automobiles powered by the internal combustion engine.  After 2019, all Volvo car models will be either fully electric or hybrids, and the company has set a goal of selling one million electric or hybrid cars by 2025.

This week, too, Tesla begins production of its electric-powered family car.  And, as the article linked above notes, all of the major car companies are looking ahead to the point where people are routinely buying electric vehicles, and to the “tipping point” at which some electric vehicles are actually cheaper than their conventionally powered competitors.

cq5dam-web-768-768Are we witnessing the end of the internal combustion engine — the hardy invention that, in some form or another, has powered personal transportation in America, and the world, for more than 100 years?

Not so fast!

There’s no doubt that electric cars, and especially hybrids, are gaining in popularity, but I think we’re still a long way off from the day when quietly purring electric vehicles dominate American streets.  For one thing, we don’t seem to have the infrastructure to support substantial use of electric cars, especially for long-distance trips — I haven’t noticed charging stations opening up on busy intersections to compete with those ever-present gas stations, at least not yet — and as the article notes, electric cars remain an expensive proposition.  And there’s also the fact that a substantial sliver of the American population, typically male, really likes the power and sound and thrumming feel of cars powered by internal combustion engines.  “Performance” cars seem to be extremely popular these days, as do grossly oversized and overpowered pickup trucks, and we’re still getting the annual stories about how cheap, or how expensive, gasoline is on the Fourth of July.  Those reports suggest that while we definitely seem to be inching toward a world of more electric-powered vehicles, we shouldn’t be shoveling dirt on the internal combustion engine just yet.