Better Winnipeg: End of an era on Winnipeg roads, CJOB’s Brian Barkley retires

WINNIPEG — Brian Barkley has been a fixture on Winnipeg roads and radio since 1976.

But at the end of October CJOB’s man on the street will be parking his cruiser, for good.

Driving the streets of the city wasn’t how Barkley started his career at ‘OB. As an afternoon host he interacted with listeners, writing down their traffic tips. But he felt like something was missing.

“Management came to me, unbeknowst to me they were thinking along the same lines.” said Barkley.  “And they were thinking, gosh, what would you think about going out in the first CJOB traffic cruiser and doing traffic. And I said, yeah, I’m in!”

And so his traffic odyssey began. That was 1990.

But the job didn’t exactly get off to the best of starts in year one.

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“In the first year, for whatever reason I got rear ended four times. None of them were serious but even one of them was on the air!” exclaimed Barkley. “I even said (on air) I think I’m going to get hit, and bam! I got hit!”

He’s been accident free ever since.

Plenty has changed since he started the job, namely technology. Going from cell phones the size of bricks, to using blue tooth technology and apps that can tell you if there’s a train crossing.

Through the years he’s had many guests along for the ride. His most popular, his dog Badger who rode with him for five years.

He’s also had political figures, and celebrities in the passenger seat that he would interview with they wound they way through Winnipeg traffic.

One of his favourite guests was Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra director, Alexander Mickelthwaite.

“When he picked me up, and we’re starting to drive through the city we just started a fun little friendship.” said Mickelthwaite. “We did it maybe eight times or something – and then always in-between we’d talk about classical music. Portage and…whatever Main and we’d talk about Beethoven, going under the underpass and we’d talk about Tchaiovsky so it was really fun and he is a great guy.

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You also might not find anyone that knows Winnipeg’s streets like he does. And he’s got ideas on how to make them better.

“If money was no object we could put overpasses there and just make Bishop Grandin sail right through east to west and extend it out if we could. ” said Barkley. “And the other one would be Lagimodiere. It’s an 80 km/h route and it has turned into the new Kenaston in the sense that we always talk about Kenaston being terrible.”

Friday October 30th will be the last ride Barkley takes in the traffic cruiser.

What will he miss the most?

“I’m going to miss talking to the people, both on and off the air, I am.” he said.

“To do traffic for this long and continue to have this much passion for the listeners and the motorists, Brian takes it so seriously and he wants to get the information on as quick as he can and never mails it in.” said Scott Pettigrew, CJOB brand director.

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