I had no difficulty at all wandering around central Chicago on foot. I used my common sense, looked both ways several times before stepping off the sidewalk (pavement), followed the instructions given by the lights....and trusted no driver.
But there clearly is a problem with pedestrians and cars, as evidenced by the numerous signs I noticed: example in the photo.
So: take extra care and have a good look to check that no-one is turning a corner as you cross. It seems that Chicago drivers aren't too good at checking before they turn (but I don't really think that's specific to Chicago..I think it happens in most places).
Despite having a lot of multi-lane roads and interstates, Chicago experiences heavy traffic congestions on weekdays, especially during the morning and evening rush hours. I suggest on weekdays, use public transportation and take Metra into Chicago. If you are going to drive into Chicago, be prepared to wait in traffic for a very long time. Two areas I know of that are almost always congested: 1) In downtown Chicago at the intersection of I-90/94 and I-290. 2) Near the Indiana state line at the intersection of I-80/94 and I-294. Try to avoid those areas. Check the web site below for up-to-minute information on traffic in the Chicago area.
It is often said in Chicago that we really only have two seasons-winter and road construction!
Most visitors to Chicago arriving by plane don't bother renting a car, nor should they, there's no place that you need to have a car for if you are staying downtown and downtown parking is very expensive. If you are driving to Chicago and it's anytime there is not snow on the ground you are likely to hit road construction.
Major snowstorms wreak havoc on the highways until the plows have a chance to come through. But snow is a major political issue in Chicago (just ask former Mayor Bilandic!) and gets plowed pretty quickly. The light blue Streets and Sanitation trucks can be seen ready and waiting anytime a major snowfall is forecasted.
For current traffic conditions and construction zones, see the website below.
Chicago is increasingly relying on traffic fines for income. It is also trying to curb accidents at some dangerous intersections. As a result, many traffic lights interestions have, or will be having, cameras installed which will record the license plates of scofflaws running red lights and send them tickets.
Even if you are not in the habit of going through red lights, it is now a good idea to not try to go through yellow ones unless you know where the cameras are.
If you get lost in downtown Chicago, PLEASE try to stay above ground. The city is sort of divided where the Chicago River runs through, so it gets tricky trying to follow a grid of one ways with this river... and my adivce, do all you can to stay off of LOWER WACKER. That road is an evil invention meant to confuse even the toughest drivers. If you do go onto LOWER WACKER (running a full story under the city), when you come up, prepare for the worst, as right-away seems to belong to the first person who seems serious enough to cause property damage to merge in.
Remember.. LOWER WACKER is the DEVIL.
Chicago's traffic lights are on the side of the streets. Unless you look for them, they're really hard to find especially if you're driving along the Magnificent Mile and craning your neck to check out that awesome outfit at Ferragamo's. :)
Attention, car traveler going eastbound: there is a very small number of gas stations on I-90/80 near Chicago (actually, there is almost nothing) so if don't want to be trapped without gas, take care about fueling in advance.