London

Former London mayor who stood up to the Queen may get a bike path renamed in her honour

City council will consider a bid by the family of Jane Bigelow, now 91, to have a section of the Thames Valley Parkway renamed in her honour.

Council looks to rename stretch of Thames Valley Parkway after Jane Bigelow, now 91

Jane Bigelow was London's mayor in the mid-1970s and was often seen riding her bike to city hall. (London Free Press Collection, Western University archives )

A former London mayor who once stood up to a request from the office of Queen Elizabeth is up for an honour Tuesday at city hall. 

More than 40 years after Jane Bigelow was regularly seen riding to work as London's female mayor, a city committee will consider a motion to rename a section of the Thames Valley Parkway (TVP) after her. 

Now 91, Bigelow held the office from 1972 to 1978 after terms as deputy mayor and as a member of the city's now defunct board of control.

Now 91, Jane Bigelow was London's first female mayor. She also famously refused to wear a hat during the Queen's visit to London in 1973. (Andrew Lupton/CBC)

"I've always been a cyclist since I was a kid," said Bigelow Friday in an interview with CBC News. "It started out when I was younger, it was just freedom: To get away from the house or from whatever was bothering you. I've always used my bike that way." 

The motion coming to the city's community and protective services committee Tuesday calls for the south section of the TVP  — the stretch between Wellington and Adelaide streets — to be renamed the "Jane Bigelow Pathway."

Her children Ann Bigelow and David Bigelow made the submission to council and it comes with a letter of support from Ward 7 Coun. Josh Morgan. 

Bigelow still follows city politics and says London has some work to do when it comes to making its streets safer. 

"I support the cyclists; give them some space and some safety for riding their bikes and doing their chores and going to work," she said. "I think people use their bikes more for going to work these days then they did when I was using mine." 

Bigelow, who pushed for bike paths in her day, believes cycling was safer in the 1970s adding, "It's a bit wild out there now." 

Stood up to the Queen

Known for taking a stand, Bigelow once famously refused a request from the office of Queen Elizabeth ahead of her visit to London in 1973. Protocol required Bigelow to wear a hat in the Queen's presence, but she would not be moved. 

"For me it wasn't much of a discussion," she said. "You got a list of instructions in how to behave and that was part of it; you wore a hat. Well, I don't always pay attention to instructions and that was one I chose to ignore."

Ann Bigelow, now a professor at Western University, shared another anecdote about her mother. 

Shortly after Jane took office, she was informed that some female city staffers had started wearing pants to work. This was presented to the new mayor as a serious problem.

"Mom said she'd give that some thought, and then went out and bought herself a pantsuit and wore it to City Hall the next day," Ann recalls. "Problem solved! 

Ann was a teenager around the time her mother's no-hat stance made the news. 

"I remember people talking about it and kids at school teasing me and saying 'Oh, your mom's causing trouble again.'

"If someone's asking me 'Are you related to Jane?' That's the No. 1 thing people remember about her."

In her submission, Ann Bigelow says her mother wishes she could still ride. 

"She can't ride a bike anymore. I would say, that among her regrets about the loss of abilities as she has aged, this is one of the most profound," wrote Ann Bigelow about her mother. "When she sees someone on a bike she says she is jealous. Almost every time I see her, she says she wishes she could ride a bike." 

The motion to have a section of the TVP renamed after Jane Bigelow goes to committee on Tuesday afternoon.

Ann says if it goes through, she'll be sure her mother is there to see the new mayor. 

"She might be on a scooter or something, but we will get her out there," said Ann.

Jane Bigelow was London's first female mayor and an early advocate for cycling. The city wants to rename a section of the Thames Valley Parkway after the 90-year-old former mayor. 4:23