A statue memorializing Jack Layton was unveiled Thursday, a life-size bronze sculpture depicting the former federal NDP leader riding a tandem bike and wearing a broad smile as he rolls along the city's lakeshore.

Unveiled at the ferry terminal that now bears Layton’s name, the statue called Jack's got your back. Stronger Together: The Layton Memorial features an empty seat where visitors will be encouraged to hop aboard and take pictures of the former city councillor and ardent cycling advocate.

The site of the statue connects the city to the Toronto Islands, a favourite spot of Layton’s and the place where he married his wife, MP Olivia Chow, in 1988.

"The Toronto Islands are truly a magical place," said Chow at Thursday’s ceremony. "You set out from this terminal for somewhere special."

Chow recalled how the couple rode a tandem bicycle, which they bought each other as a wedding present. When they rode together as newlyweds, Chow would occupy the rear seat. The statue unveiled Thursday features Jack in the back seat, a switch Chow explained was intentional.

'Now Jack has your back'

"When we rode together, I had Jack’s back," said Chow.  "Now Jack has your back."

Chow, a sculptor herself, was an active collaborator in the creation of the statue by Toronto artist David Pellettier.

"I wanted to make sure that Jack’s smile was as I remembered," she said.

Layton’s son Coun. Mike Layton also spoke at the ceremony and said the tandem bike is symbolic of his father’s approach to politics.  

"A tandem bike requires trust," said Layton. "Trust in your partner and trust in others. The journey requires you to work together. He collaborated with others in his job and he had fun through it all."

Toronto Mayor Rob Ford said he will forever remember how Layton helped him when the two sat in adjacent council seats in the years when Ford was a rookie councillor.

"Although we had different political views, Jack was always kind, respectful and helpful to me," said Ford. "He showed me the ropes and taught me an important lesson when he said ‘Rob, don’t take things personally. It’s just politics.’"

The statue is a gift from the Ontario Federation Of Labour.

Layton died after a battle with cancer just months after leading his party to an unprecedented 103 seats in the May 2 federal election. He was 61.

With files from The Canadian Press