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What are those mystery metal strips found on roads?

I find these metal strips all the time on the side of the road, usually next to the curb. Mostly on major roads, but in neighborhoods too sometimes. They’re about 6-8 inches long, 2 mm wide, and 1/4 mm thick. Appears to be steel, but just low grade steel, not spring steel. Just curious, anybody know what they are?

Can you post a photo of one?

A photo? It’s just a straight grey-metal strip about 6-8 inches long, 2 mm wide, and 1/4 mm thick is all. Such a thing wouldn’t be noteworthy to find, except that I find them all the time. I"ve probably picked up 100 of them, and left many more where I saw them. So far I’ve never come up with a use for any of them, but who knows … lol …

Just sitting there loose? built into the road? A pic would really help.

Yes, just sitting there on the road surface, loose . I don’t think it has anything to do with the road. It’s falling off of a car, or perhaps from equipment used to maintain the road, maybe a street sweeper? hmmm … now that I think of it, maybe this issue has already been discussed here. I seem to recall those things are from street sweepers.

I’ve been hangin’ out here for years (I need a life!) and this one’s new to me.

I pretty certain I’ve heard that people who pick locks use something they find from street sweepers. Maybe that’s what I’m thinking of. I don’t see how these metal strips would be helpful in picking locks. They’re too flimsy for that.

I might recognize one if I saw a photo, but without one I can’t even guess. The description simply doesn’t ring any bells.

Isn’t a street sweepers supposed to sweep the streets clean and not leave stuff behind?

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You’d think! lol …

A google search for “street sweeper metal strips” comes up with lots of info. Looks like they are indeed just that.

But I must say, in all my years of walking the streets (pun not intended) I never saw anything like these. Perhaps the sweepers in my area use a different method. In fact, my guess would be that those metal strips used in a sweeper would be very abrasive to the road surface.

(text that accompanied photo)
These are the bristles which have fallen off street cleaning machines. I’ve foraged these from various roadways along the West Coast- Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, Portland… now I have included some from our recent trips to Iceland and British Columbia (who knew they’d look the same, all over the world?)


I am extremely observant, but I can’t recall ever seeing any of those metal strips. I will pick up and dispose of screws and nails that I see in the street (The tires that you save may be your own!!), but I have never seen any of those metal strips.

I used to pick those up all the time when I was a little kid. My neighborhood had street sweeping machines come through about every 6 weeks or so. They are the pieces of the brushes as @BillRussell pointed out.

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But I live in an area that gets swept every 2 weeks, and I see no strips…

They may have changed the material of the brushes, or perhaps fastened them better. GeorgeSanJose, they may be using old sweepers in your area…

Don’t how long they are but they look like the metal supports you out in a filing cabinet to hold the hanging files. Were thee notches on the ends?

The photos show no notches. And who would be dumping file holder supports on the nation’s streets in hugh quantities?

How about form ties for concrete construction work? These kinds look like those and you often find bits of construction waste on the roadsides.

Street sweeper brush parts. I have seen them too. They are more common in cities. Here in Mass., we have a law that states all roads must be swept annually. So they do it just once per year and those things are left behind. As are many of the nails and screws that were on the side of the road, but get flung out and left in that little trail of dirt the sweepers leave behind.

Since the '60s, I have referred to mechanized street sweepers as “Dirt Relocation Devices”.
Yes, they do manage to remove much of the dirt and debris located close to the curb, but do they really improve matters by simply leaving that material in a damp line of relocated detritus that is a couple of feet from the curb?

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And add thousands of metal strips to the debris? plus pollution…