Solana Beach resident Karl Rudnick, right, pictured with his wife, Lisa Cooper, is 2016’s San Diego County Bike Coalition’s Volunteer of the Year. He was presented the award during the organization’s Dec. 8 Golden Gear Awards in Balboa Park. Courtesy photo
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Solana Beach resident, bike advocate honored for volunteerism

SOLANA BEACH — Karl Rudnick, a longtime Solana Beach resident and co-founder of Bike Walk Solana, was named the San Diego County Bike Coalition’s 2016 Volunteer of the Year during its Dec. 8 Golden Gear Awards in Balboa Park.

The event, which was held after the sixth annual Holiday Joy Ride, recognizes bike advocates who have gone above and beyond to help make the region more bike friendly.

“I think they finally ran out of people to give awards to so I got stuck with it this year,” he said modestly about the honor.

Rudnick, 67, has been riding a bike since he was 6 years old, but got into it “seriously” at 12, when he started going on 45-mile rides.

When he moved to Solana Beach in 1989 he was one-car family for many years, so he commuted 12 miles each way on his bike to his job as a mathematician at Science Applications International Corporation.

After helping create Bike Walk Solana, his interest in bicycle advocacy continued, prompting him to attend coalition meetings.

For the past three years, as a certified instructor for the League of American Bicyclists, he has been teaching “smart-cycling” classes to adults to help people feel comfortable while riding in traffic.

“We teach them to co-exist with cars,” he said. “It’s basically understanding your legal rights and responsibilities and using them to your advantage.”

But it is his work on the bike coalition’s website that earned him the Volunteer of the Year award.

“Their website database that keeps track of donations, memberships and events was in shambles,” he said. “They really didn’t have a good system for tracking things.”

A self-described computer geek, Rudnick said he and Mike Samyn, last year’s Volunteer of the Year, worked for about 400 hours in six months to make improvements.

At first they looked into buying software packages, but they would have cost the coalition about $8,000 initially and another $4,000 to $5,000 annually.

“We were able to install something for free,” Rudnick said, adding that the coalition’s limited budget precludes the group from hiring an IT person to manage the database.

“We sort of took over that responsibility and as volunteers we’re managing it for the time being,” he added.

The San Diego County Bike Coalition “advocates for and protects the rights of all people who ride bicycles” by promoting bicycling as a “mainstream, safe and enjoyable form of transportation and recreation,” according to its website.

“We advocate, educate and celebrate all that cycling is about,” Executive Director Andy Hanshaw said. “We try to make it better and safer for everybody.

“Every year we recognize people in the county who have helped us accomplish our mission and goals,” he added. “Karl is a very well-deserving person for that award for his longtime dedication to the organization, but also for his effort to help us do our job internally better with limited staff and resources.

“He put his expertise to work for our database needs,” Hanshaw said. “That was a big thing for us. It’s going to help us in the long run be more efficient, be more effective in raising money and be more effective doing outreach and supporting our programs better.

“So we’re grateful for all the effort and the hours and hours that he put into that,” he continued. “More importantly, Karl’s sort of an all-around dedicated volunteer, former board member and passionate about bicycling and promoting safer places for people to ride. We’re happy he works with us and helps us out.”

The appreciation is mutual.

“I really think the bike coalition is a great thing for San Diego County,” Rudnick said. “We’re the primary voice that not only advocates for bikes, but for pedestrians and active transportation, mass transit, the whole thing.”

He and Hanshaw said bicycling can improve the environment, health and quality of life.