Runner struck, killed by vehicle in Rogers

Posted: February 4, 2016 at 12:31 p.m.
Updated: February 4, 2016 at 4:41 p.m.

A woman running along a Rogers sidewalk that is part of the Razorback Greenway was hit and killed by a driver on Wednesday night.

Jennifer Bikel, 40, of Rogers was hit by a car outside the Village on the Creeks shopping center on 52nd Street, according to a police news release.

Bikel was hospitalized and pronounced dead at Mercy Medical Center, according to the police release. Records from the Rogers Fire Department note a pedestrian accident at that location where a woman suffered “multiple traumatic injuries.”

First responders were called at about 6:20 p.m.

Driver Joseph Farnan,53, of Rogers, was turning right out of the center in a 2014 GMC Sierra when he hit Bikel, according to police.

No citations have been issued and the investigation is ongoing, according to police.

Farnan told police he checked for traffic heading south and saw it was clear to turn. Bikel was on the sidewalk and was hit by Farnan's vehicle, according to police.

Mike Rush, owner of Rush Running, said the accident is a call to awareness for motorists.

He advocates for runners to wear reflective clothing and headlamps but can list off close calls runners have had with cars.

“I can't tell you how many times our running group has been run off the roads by people who never even saw us. It's way too close to home,” Rush said.

A post by the shop's social media account mourning Bikel's death and urging caution among runners drew hundreds of comments Thursday afternoon.

"She was a beautiful, kind, caring person and an amazing member of our running community," the post said in part.

The running and biking population is growing in Northwest Arkansas, Rush said. About 350 people run with his Bentonville training group on Saturdays and local races are growing.

Any intersection or crosswalk can be hazardous and drivers need to be aware of more than just other cars, he said.

Bikel was careful to run with a flashing light and headlamp, Rush said.

Bikel was wearing a beanie with a flashing light and a headlamp although police said Thursday they did not know if the headlamp was on or not. Police did not provide a speed of the vehicle but said Farnan's turn out of the shopping center was sharp.

The segment of trail that Bikel was on is scheduled to be rerouted. A half-mile section of new trail will cut behind the busy 52nd Street entrance to Village on the Creeks and put a trail signal across Stoney Brook Road, said Nathan Becknell, project engineer with Rogers.

The new segment will enter the shopping center approximately at Tower Drive and come out near the Chapel on the Creeks, crossing the creek and ending at the trail that wraps along the base of the three crosses at Rogers campus of Cross Church.

The $1.3 million dollar project to add the bridge and put trail through the middle of the shopping center instead of using the sidewalk out front began in November 2014, Becknell said.

The city finished gathering right of way for the trail last week. The Greenway was first built using existing sidewalks to connect sections of trail, Becknell said.

A second bridge project is planned to allow pedestrians to cross from where the trail crosses under an entrance ramp for Interstate 49 and access the shopping center instead of following New Hope Road.

Both projects are likely to be bid in February, Becknell said. The replacement for the 52nd Street sidewalks is contingent on a Walton Family Foundation grant.

Rogers Mayor Greg Hines called Bikel's death a tragic loss.

“All of us worry about that every day when we let our kids walk on sidewalks,” Hines said. “There's a level of awareness that needs to be out there for those driving our streets.”