NSW Roads Minister Duncan Gay announced the move this week, following a spate of injuries to children struck by cars around schools in Sydney during the previous seven days (mostly away from the CBD).
Mr Gay said seven pedestrians lost their lives in Sydney’s CBD between 2008 and 2014, with three fatalities already recorded this year.
"More than 90 percent of trips made every day in the Sydney CBD are made on foot [and the] CBD carries an incredibly high volume of traffic on both its roads and footpaths, so it's important that all road-users work together to reduce the high number of crashes and injuries,” Mr Gay said.
“We know that speed is a critical factor for the safety of pedestrians. A vehicle that hits a pedestrian at 50km/h is twice as likely to cause a fatality as the same vehicle travelling 10km/h slower.”
The new 40km/h zone will take in most of George and Pitt Streets, along with Hay, Kent, Castlereagh and Bathurst Streets (see map).
Mr Gay said new signage and a communications campaign will be rolled out to educate drivers on the new speed zones, and the Centre for Road Safety will monitor the success of the program.
Motorists have reacted cautiously to the move however, with calls for a greater crackdown on ‘jaywalking’ and the more modern ‘i-walking’; pedestrians distracted by mobile phones or listening to music through earphones.
NSW Police established ‘Operation Franklin’ in 2012 which sees motorcycle police in the CBD concentrating on poor pedestrian behaviour, with more than 2500 fines handed out to date.
Melbourne’s CBD currently sees a 40km/h speed limit enforced around the clock, under a similar scheme established in 2012.