Atlanta Magnet Man Trawls Nails off the Streets With His Bike Trailer

The “Atlanta Magnet Man” is cleaning his city with his cool home-made magnet cart. It’s a folk legend in the making.

byAndrew P. Collins|
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@atlantamagnetman, 11 Alive screenshots


Alex Benigno has been going around Atlanta, Georgia with the admirable mission of removing dangerous refuse, like screws and nails, from thoroughfares. It's a quintessential "not all heroes wear capes" situation.

I discovered Benigno as @atlantamagnetman on Instagram, where he's built a bit of a following and seems to keep a genuinely appreciative fanbase for his noble pursuits in recreational street cleaning. He's also put some serious creative energy into his homebrewed trash collection technology, which is fun to see. As Benigno himself described his enterprise on the Clover Club podcast: "I pull a trailer behind my bicycle, I put magnets on the bottom, and I use it to pick up nails and screws so our tires won't have to." Sounds like a great community service to me.

I dropped Benigno a message on Instagram and he said he'd be down to chat, but I haven't heard back from him in a bit. In fairness, I rarely spelunk into my "requests" inbox either. Luckily for me and anyone else curious about this one-man quest to clean up Atlanta's streets (sounds like a Robocop sequel logline), he did a nice little interview on the above-linked podcast.

It's a slightly meandering conversation between neighbors (the show host lives near Mr. Benigno) and you can skip to 07:45 if you must get straight to trash-collecting stories. But I found the whole episode to be pretty entertaining.

The guy comes across as very conscientious and creative; it makes sense that such a person would build a cool contraption like this magnetic road-cleaning bike trailer. "I have some ADHD projects that I'll just wander into," he says on the show.

As for this project itself, it seems to be a large trailer (hard to imagine a bicycle towing anything much bigger) with big strips of magnets that pull metallic objects off the pavement and into their invisible clutches. They're neodymium magnets, which I've learned are "the strongest kind of permanent magnet commercially available." A wide push-broom brush helps guide errant road flotsam to the magnets.

In addition to an Instagram, it looks like the ATLMM also set up a casual YouTube channel, which provides some good visuals on how his pedal-powered street sweeper works:

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Benigno mentioned on the show that "it's crazy how difficult it can be to remove the things [from the magnet] I've picked up," and describes a time some magnets clung to a manhole cover and caused him a major headache.

We don't have anything to compare his trash-collection efficiency to empirically, but he shared that a usual haul is six pounds of trash for 10 miles of biking. Sounds like the dude is getting solid exercise while improving his environment—and now that I've written that, I feel like I've gotten sucked into the script of a 'Parks and Recreation' episode.

Fans of that show might be saying "This sounds like something Chris Traeger and Leslie Knope would dream up." At least, that was my first thought.

This local news clip includes some additional context for my visual learners in the audience:

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Unfortunately, road traveling by bicycle involves some inherent risk, especially in a bustling metro like Atlanta. Benigno mentioned having had "lots of close calls," and even said he was hit by a car on his way to work once.

Drivers, please, look out for your fellow road users even if they cause you brief moments of inconvenience. And the Atlanta Magnet Man sounds like somebody we especially want to protect—his slow-moving magnetmobile won't be able to easily make evasive maneuvers, and he's doing all his neighbors a solid favor!

Stay safe out there, Atlanta Magnet Man, may your altruism inspire and your tires always be nail-free.