Shanghai’s Impossibly Overloaded Bikes!

Alain Delorme Overloaded Bikes Totem 15Photo: Alain Delorme

China is the world’s 3rd largest country, and with over 1.3 billion people, the most populous. For decades China remained closed off to the outside world, either struggling through the troubles of civil war or due to the secretive nature of its Communist government.

Alain Delorme Overloaded Bikes Totem 5Photo: Alain Delorme

Since the 1970’s, though, the country has opened up and has taken its place at the international table of superpowers. Due to its huge population and natural resources, China is a manufacturing powerhouse that will soon become the biggest and most powerful economy in the world. The economic boom has seen cities become mega cities, sprawling across vast areas and decorated with some of the tallest buildings in the world.

Alain Delorme Overloaded Bikes Totem 9Photo: Alain Delorme

However, in between these polished golden skyscrapers and beneath the looming financial might are the people who keep the cities ticking, the average citizens who provide the work – and oil the gears of the newest kid on the superpower block. Because of the population density and its associated issues, the citizens of China’s most populous city, Shanghai, have developed their own means of ensuring progress. Here is a glimpse at some of the most innovative means used.

Alain Delorme Overloaded Bikes Totem 4Photo: Alain Delorme

In China, bikes are everywhere. Pushbikes, motorbikes, mopeds, scooters – you name it, they’ve got it. In cities too large and congested to get everything where it needs to go in transit vans or HGVs, bikes are the main means of transport.

Alain Delorme Overloaded Bikes Totem 1Photo: Alain Delorme

From tires to rubbish, nothing is too heavy or too big to fit on a bike; you just need the right amount of rope.

Alain Delorme Overloaded Bikes Totem 2Photo: Alain Delorme

China is building skyscrapers at a rate only seen before in Sim City. According to, China is the largest market for cranes in the world, but the Chinese still rely on one of the the oldest forms of modern transport to get materials from A to B.

Alain Delorme Overloaded Bikes Totem 7Photo: Alain Delorme

There are no machines used in the stacking of bikes, proof of the people’s improvisation and innovation – in the Chinese sense of making do with what you’ve got.

Alain Delorme Overloaded Bikes Totem 13Photo: Alain Delorme

China swept to the top of the medal table at the Beijing Olympics in 2008; it’s just a pity there wasn’t an Olympic medal available in Jenga.

Alain Delorme Overloaded Bikes Totem 8Photo: Alain Delorme

Flowers provide the perfect example of the delicate art of overloading bikes, proving that loading a bike in this way isn’t completely dependent on the tightness of a rope.

Alain Delorme Overloaded Bikes Totem 12Photo: Alain Delorme

Alain Delorme, who took these wonderful pictures, is a French photographer living and working in Paris. He studied Science and Technology in Photography at the University of Paris and has exhibited throughout Europe. His next exhibition, Totem, from which these pictures are taken, shows in Paris and Amsterdam in early 2011.

Alain Delorme Overloaded Bikes Totem 3Photo: Alain Delorme

Please see Alain Delorme’s website for further details.